José A. Espina
Madrid are coming to town, Rafa. Are you divided in any way?
"I played there for seven years so obviously there is a place for Real Madrid in my heart, but everyone knows Betis is in my blood. Divided? Not at all. We need to win, then Real Madrid can have the league title and the Champions League.
Is that what you tell your many friends at Madrid?
The 'Buitre'(five home-grown players) aren't coming, but Pardeza and Chendito will be here... I also get on well with Florentino, there's a definitely a connection. Obviously these people are dear to me and I enjoy spending time with them.
But is the feeling mutual? Betis haven't had any player on loan from them...
I wanted to open that door, but they've changed the system: now you have to buy them and of course here money is a little tight. We tried to get Granero but he ended up in England.
Granero, another player from the ranks at Real Madrid not to succeed. Did the same thing happen in your time?
"During my time there we had the 'Quinta' (five home-grown players), subsequent generations have never lived up to that. I think the same will happen at Barcelona, and really that is what has caused Madrid to buy so many superstars. Having said that, there are also other things that are incomprehensible."
"I don't get why players like Mata, Silva and Valero play abroad... players that are of a similar quality to the ones Madrid and Barça are signing. For example Maceda didn't get away from Mendoza, nor did I."
Last year you praised Mou. Do you still think the same?
"He's ideal for players; there were similar coaches when I was at Madrid, like Toshack and Beenhakker . They are trainers you can talk to, they also know when to rest players and then demand that they perform at their best. Of course, there are things that affect Madrid, but..."
Do you mean his manner?
"He will never lose that, and one hundred years means a lot. But certain aspects of his coaching style and the whole business with Cristiano don't help."
Do you think Cristiano will be booed in the Villamarín tonight?
"I hope not. There is still affection for Madrid here, though less than before. Honestly, I don't know why people hate Cristiano. Hugo, for example, had a similar character and came out with the same kind of statements, but they didn't give him as much grief."
You mentioned Betis' affection towards Madrid...
"I said there was less, the same as in other cities. Madrid are no longer the second team in many cities."
So, how do you see tonight?
"Ugh, a bit dicey. The best time to play either Real Madrid or Barça is in the first four games of the season when maybe they are stuttering a bit and are not in the best shape physically. When they start to move into gear it's very difficult to get anything from the game."