Real Betis manager, Manuel Pellegrini. / EFE

What's not to love about Real Betis?

Energetic fans paired with a cool, calm and collected manager is the recipe for this club's current success

ROB PALMER

It's proving to be the perfect marriage: a crazy, unmanageable club and the most level-headed coach in football.

Manuel Pellegrini has steered Real Betis into La Liga's third place and have made people sit up and take notice after smashing early-season sensations, Real Sociedad.

Every league has that one club beloved by all and followed by colourful fans who create a wild atmosphere for an often under-achieving team in a passionate part of a footballing country. The difference is that Pellegrini's team is now achieving and are living up to the superb support.

When the Chilean took over, they were going through a crisis and sat 15th in the table. In his first season he steered them to safety with sensible management. Last season, they toughened up, lost only one of the final twenty-six games, and finished a creditable sixth.

Now they are four points ahead of Atlético Madrid, well above Barcelona and Valencia. They also advanced in the Europa League and won't be phased by Zenit St. Petersburg in the knockout stages.

The success is down to the calculated management of Pellegrini. He now has the best win percentage of any Betis manager. He boasted the same at Malaga, Villarreal, and Real Madrid and won the Premier League at Manchester City.

The issue for Pellegrini is his statesman-like image. At City, he moved aside for Pep Guardiola; at Real Madrid, he was keeping the seat warm for Jose Mourinho. He doesn't march down the touchline and I can't remember a single quote from his many years in management. At the Benito Villamarín, he has 52,000 fans to do his ranting and raving. His measured style is proving perfect for a club that needs a cool and calculated head.

He's also focused a team of nearly-men - those who haven't quite realised their potential, drifters - and a collection of colourful characters. Nabil Fekir "nearly" joined Liverpool. Sergio Canales was the "next big thing" aged 20. William Carvalho has been seasonally linked with many major clubs. Joaquín is one of Spanish football's urban legends.

Fekir now shows the form which won him a place in France's World Cup-winning squad. Canales is maturing as a 30-year-old. Carvalho would not be appreciated more by any other club and Joaquin defies science by playing top-level football at the age of 40.

He's also focused a coupé of drifters. Willian José has scored goals wherever he's gone, and Juanmi – the kid from Coín – was signed by Southampton, didn't settle in England and has taken a couple of years to find his level again. Pellegrini has harnessed both of their talents.

The club has also provided an appreciative home to Héctor Bellerín and Marc Bartra. The football is always cavalier, the atmosphere buzzing and fans threw thousands of toys onto the field ahead of the Real Sociedad game to be donated to underprivileged local kids. What's not to love about Real Betis?