Real Betis defender Paulao had a miserable performance at the tail end of a miserable season in his side's 3-1 loss to Rayo Vallecano and after just 30 minutes he was ready to stop playing. Paulao set up the match's first goal in the 14th minute when Rayo's Ruben Rochina intercepted his weak backpass to the goalkeeper. After getting moral support from his teammates, Paulao then scored an own goal in the 27th minute when his sliding clearance attempt went wrong. That's when the Brazilian reached his breaking point.
His two mistakes were so awful that Rayo captain Roberto Trashorras helped him up off the ground and patted his cheek. Nacho also tried to offer his support as Paulao's teammates urged him on. But it was all too much for him. Even though he wasn't physically hurt, Paulao asked to be substituted and in the 32nd minute, his wish was granted.
With that loss, last-place Real Betis further cement their relegation as they sit eight points behind 19th-place Almeria. As Sid Lowe explains in the Guardian, this season has been one of unrelenting pain and sadness for Paulao.
Paulão, who was sent off against Sevilla in the city derby earlier in the season, trudging to the touchline in tears, later apologising for his part in their downfall, now sat on the pitch where he had landed. He'd joined Betis after a spell at Saint Etienne, where he had been unhappy and he had re-found himself, at least to start with. But he'd played through injury, struggling with the pain; and this weekend he had been included in the side for the first time this month, accelerating his return. Now this.
After the match, Real Betis manager Gabriel Calderon explained that he knew Paulao couldn't continue. From the AFP:
"From my experience in football I thought about changing him and then it was clear he was thinking the same thing and asked to be subbed. It was obvious that he was not going to be able to stick it out," he said.
Some critics have questioned Paulao's commitment after this display, but sometimes mental anguish can be worse than physical pain.
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