West Bromwich Albion have appointed the Spaniard, Pepe Mel, to be their new head coach on an 18-month deal.
The former Real Betis man is well-known in his home country, but has never managed any club in the English Premier League.
Who is Pepe Mel?
Mel began his career as a striker at Real Madrid, where he played for the B and C team. He was never able to break through into the first team of what is perhaps the world’s most famous club and moved onto Osasuna. Again, however, he achieved little success with the Pamplona side.
After a slow start to his playing career, Mel moved onto Second Division side, CD Castellon, where he remained for two years.
At last, he managed to find some success on the playing field and helped Castellon return to Spain’s top league, La Liga, after seven years away from the highest echelons of Spanish football.
Joining Real Betis
The team Mel is most associated with is Real Betis. He joined the Second Division side in 1989 and finished the season top scorer as Béticos were promoted to La Liga.
The following season Mel experienced his only season playing in Spain’s top flight. He scored a highly respectable 14 goals, but Betis were still relegated that year.
The new West Brom man began his coaching career at amateur side, CD Coslada, in 1999.
He then spent a season at Real Murcia before replacing former Liverpool boss, Rafa Benitez, at CD Tenerife. This was Mel’s first experience of managing in the Spanish top flight, but the club were relegated.
Mel spent the next four seasons in the Spanish Second Division, before dropping down into the Third Division to coach Rayo Vallecano.
He soon guided the Madrid-based side to promotion, but inadequate results meant Mel was sacked after four seasons with Vallecano in 2010.
A Return to Betis
Upon his sacking by Vallecano, Mel returned to Betis after 17 years away from the club where he had most success as a player.
By the time Mel arrived, Betis had suffered a severe decline in fortunes. In 2004-05, the Andalusian side had finished fourth to qualify for the Champions League and boasted brilliant talent like the Spain international, Joaquin. But Betis struggled from 2005 onwards and were finally relegated in 2009.
Mel’s arrival saw a resurgence at Betis, however, and the side quickly returned to the top flight. During Betis' time in the Second Division, Mel even managed to coach his team to a 3-1 Copa del Rey victory over a team widely regarded as one of the best ever, the Barcelona of Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi.
The next season saw Betis finish 13th in La Liga, but it was the 2012-13 season where Mel managed to recapture some of the club’s old success by coming 7th and qualifying for the Europa League.
Sacked by Real Betis
The 2013-14 season started poorly for Betis and the Andalusians currently languish at the bottom of La Liga. After failing to improve Betis’ form, Mel was removed from his position in early December.
Joining West Brom
Almost immediately upon Steve Clarke losing his job with West Brom, Mel was considered a favourite for the position.
Although negotiations appeared to break down in late December, the Baggies board and Mel have now reached an agreement on an 18-month deal.
Mel now takes over a team just four points clear of the relegation zone and West Brom fans will be hoping the former Real Betis man can guide them to safety.