Profile: Esnaola

The greatest Real Betis goalkeeper

Without a single doubt, José Ramón Esnaola is the greatest goalkeeper Real Betis have had in their history. Their biggest icon on goal. The hero of the 1977 Copa del Rey final and the footballer with more game played defending the Club's crest. An idol and myth that spent 12 seasons at Heliópolis.

José Ramón Esnaola Larburu was born in Andoain (Guipúzcoa, Spain) on the 30th of June of 1946. He began his career at Real Sociedad youth and made his debut with the first team from San Sebastian in 1965 when he was 19 and the team was then in Second Division.

He had a brilliant progression and was transferred to Atletico de Madrid in 1968, but the signing was not complete because the doctors at Atletico cancelled the transfer stating that the player had an old injury that he had sustained? precisely playing against Betis.

He stayed at Real Sociedad, where he became undisputable on goal, until he was transferred to Real Betis in 1973. At Real Sociedad, Esnaola played 200 games and went to Betis when he was 27 years old.

At the end of July of 1973, Betis announced the signing of José Ramón Esnaola in exchange of 12 million Pesetas, the highest figure paid for the Green and White club until that moment.

Even then, it seemed like a fair Price for a player of such quality. But, in time, it turned to be as, possibly, the best transaction Betis ever made. A magnificent operation.

Betis is then in Second Division and Esnaola's debut takes place on the 1st of September of 1973 in Linares. The Green and Whites won 0-1 and it's the kick start  of a successful campaign that ends in promotion.

From that moment, year after year, Esnaola is always in the starting eleven. A reference on goal and an idol for the fans. This reaches its highest point on the night of the 25th of June of 1977, when Real Betis wins the 1st Copa del Rey against Athletic Club. In that memorable night, the keeper stopped three penalties and score one in the shootout.

José Ramón Esnaola stayed at Real Betis until 1985, twelve seasons without a stop. He played 460 official games in five different competitions: 378 league; 64 Copa del Rey; 6 Cup Winners Cup; 8 League Cup and 4 UEFA Cup. An outstanding number that has never been surpassed.

On the 9 of August of 1983, he received a tribute from the fans in a game played at Benito Villamarín Stadium in a friendly match between Real Betis Balompié and his other team, Real Sociedad. The game ended 1-1, with Esnaola playing several minutes as a field player and scoring the Green and White goal? from the penalty spot.

Once he retired, he began a coaching career that took him twice to sit at Real Betis bench, in the seasons 1990-91 and 1992-93, more precisely.

He also was assistant coach and the head coach, for many years, of Real Betis second team.

In 2002 he was appointed goalkeeping coach, job he did until 2013, when he retired from football and from Betis.