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*Fresh Eyes* on Denílson’s Big Betis Move in ’98

Denilson at Real Betis

Let me tell you something, the general response to transfer stories like this really do grind my gears!

If you do a quick Google search on pretty much anything to do with Denílson’s move to Real Betis in 1998, I will be shooketh if you come across anything remotely positive about it. On the whole, it appears to be nothing but a cautionary tale on how stupid Betis were to ever gamble on such an unproven prospect in such a tough league.

When on the other hand, I would argue that it was simply a case of a very exciting player being given a task that wasn’t his to achieve. A bit like telling a famous artist to do a finger-painting. It seems like they’d be good at it given their other art-like qualities, but don’t be surprised if the absence of a brush or two removes their ability to create the kind of work they’ve made previously with their help. You get what I’m trying to say?

Denílson de Oliveira Araújo (better known more simply as ‘Denílson’) started his professional career in that stereotypical way for your favourite South American fledgling. Basically, by tearing his territorial opponents a new A-hole and enjoying / enduring the notoriety that comes along with that type of attention.

Paving the way for the likes of Robinho to Real Madrid and Neymar to Barcelona after him, Denílson’s tricks and flicks became something of a legend back home with Sao Paolo. So much so that relative under-performers Real Betis decided to burst their bank before their competitors did with a £21.5 million pre-2000 move.

Heralded as ‘The Messiah’ looking to bring in this fresh, enjoyable new era of success for Los Verdes, the samba star was always going to struggle with the unnecessary levels of expectation placed upon him. Especially when you consider that Betis didn’t exactly cater to the type of football that made him so want-able in the first place.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but the Brazilian form of jogo bonito often doesn’t translate well in Spanish. Especially in a league which has a less forgiving approach to dealing with tricksters who seem to ‘not take the game seriously enough’, it’s tough for the Denilson’s of the world to be taken in by the Betis faithful.

Even less so for opponents to allow his better qualities to shine at their expense. The price tag also most certainly didn’t help matters. With the club’s lack of defensive quality and overall depth making for a less-than-enjoyable experience, Denilson was never able to truly enjoy his time in Spain. All the while, his transfer sum – something he had nothing to do with – was thrown in his face as the reason for the club’s shallow end to the season. They even got relegated and pundits blamed him. Like the defence weren’t culpable at all. What kind of foolishness is that?!

What do you remember of Denilson’s record-breaking move to Real Madrid in 1998? Try your best to sum it up using one word down below!

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