‘Don Manué’, an unrepeatable icon | Soccer | Sports

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“We were in the ICU. Nobody gave a penny for us and now I leave you a clean Betis and in First Division.” This mythical phase of Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, who died at dawn on Saturday at the age of 79, represents very well one of the most important leaders in the history of Betis and, also, of Spanish football. It occurred in 1994, after Betis’s promotion to First Division. He led the green and white ship from 1992 to 2010. Lopera was a unique character, Betic to the core, who forged his fortune during the Franco regime.

Known as Lete in Seville in the late 1950s and 1960s, he became rich selling household appliances to the lower classes. The formula, innovative at the time, was installment sales. Lopera always lived in the Sevillian neighborhood of El Fontanal and at the end of the seventies he began to be part of the Betis environment after growing with his businesses in the real estate sphere. He always boasted of having earned his first million pesetas at the age of 20 and of being able to “see a thousand-peseta bill behind a partition.” This was Don Manué, as he was known by the green and white fans.

His career shows a leader who reigned without controversy in Betis and Andalusian football between 1994 and 2006. His Betis won a Cup in 2005 and played in the Champions League for the first time in history. Essential in the trajectory of the Andalusian club, Lopera took another step. His personality and way of doing things set a trend in a key era in Spanish football. He was part of an unforgettable football scene alongside presidents such as Jesús Gil, from Atlético, José Luis Núñez, from Barcelona, ​​José María Caneda, from Compostela, Ramón Mendoza and Lorenzo Sanz from Real Madrid or Luis Cuervas and José María del Nido in Sevilla. .

Lopera took control of Betis in 1992, just at the time of the club’s conversion into a Sociedad Anónima Deportiva. Since that year he left memorable moments in the history of Betis. For example, he recorded a surreal video of how he saved Betis from disappearance in 1992 by staging the call to the bank demanding 800 million pesetas. “We have not given the joy to those people who had the champagne ready to toast the death of Betis,” Lopera stated in that video from the mid-nineties, at which time he signed players like Alfonso, Jarni or Finidi to do a Betis that would be runner-up in the Cup in 1997 and fourth classified.

Lopera went one step further by making the most expensive signing in the history of football in 1997: he paid 5,000 million pesetas for Denilson, a Sâo Paulo player. Curiously, the arrival of Denilson and the construction of the new Betis stadium marked a first decline for his Betis, which went down to Second in 2000. He had established a rather peculiar way of governing Betis. Associated companies such as Tegasa or Farusa took over the club’s assets and exploited them.

“Tegasa, everything stays at home,” Lopera himself would say, who on many occasions paid bonuses to the players with gift vouchers from El Corte Inglés. “On Monday your wives will be climbing the stairs to buy,” he told the footballers. At these meetings, the single players, for whom there were no bonuses, complained to the manager. He made the footballers pay for each shirt they gave away and for parking at the stadium.

Famous people also did their negotiations at their house on Calle Jabugo in Seville. There he exposed agents and footballers to marathon meetings. Also at her house, where she has a theater, artists like Rocío Jurado or the Dúo Dinático performed to please her mother. There she watched Betis games with his dog Hugo. “He stands up when Betis scores a goal,” she said.

Lopera’s personality hardly changed over time. His Betis returned triumphantly, winning the Cup in 2005 and playing in the Champions League. He continued doing his thing. For example, going to a players’ party on Halloween Night at footballer Benjamín’s house. “Girls kept coming in. When we entered, some of them were doing physical exercise without any clothes on. Some players jumped out of the window, including Joaquín,” Lopera would say about this episode.

His particular relationship with Joaquín also marked an important stage. After winning the Cup in 2005, the trophy presided over the altar at his wedding. Just a year later, he threatened to transfer him to Albacete. “It is always sad to say goodbye to a friend and a person with whom you have met in so many good times. He has been a person who will be remembered all his life within Betis and I am not spiteful,” said Joaquín himself at the funeral home.

Lopera’s star faded in his last stage between 2006 and 2010. “The Betis will never forget me,” he stated in one of his last statements. Lopera will be cremated this Monday afternoon and his ashes will be deposited in the columbarium of the Brotherhood of Great Power, of which he was a devotee. Holy Week was another of his passions.

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