Today, in an official announcement, Real Madrid confirmed that Spain’s current national team Julen Lopetegui will take over at the Bernabeu after this summers World Cup. The club confirmed that Lopetegui has agreed terms on a three year contract with the three-in-a-row Champions League winners.
This appointment comes as a surprise as it was believed Guti would be taking over from Zinedine Zidane last week. This came off the back of Real Murcia’s president claiming that the former Real Madrid star was going to be the manager of Real Madrid, which was the reason why he couldn’t be Real Murcia’s.
On top of this, Julen Lopetegui was omitted from the other big names in the early running for the job. Such names included; Mauricio Pochettino, Arsene Wenger, Antonio Conte, Guti and Joachim Loew. The fact Lopetegui would be unable to take over any duties with Real Madrid until after the World Cup had ended was a contributing factor in him not being included in the early favourites. The same was said for the likes of Jorge Sampaoli (Argentina) and Tite (Brazil).
What has Julen Lopetegui done to warrant – what many would deem – the biggest job in world football. He did play for Real Madrid during his career and came through the youth system at the club as a goalkeeper. Funnily enough, he actually made more first team appearances for Barcelona (five) than he did for Real Madrid (one). Lopetegui did play more regularly with the Castilla however, making 61 appearances.
Lopetegui also went on to coach the Castilla team before venturing into international management with Spain’s underage teams. This proved to be a successful period for the Spaniard as he won the European Championships with both Spain’s under 19’s and under-21’s.
His time in club football proved to be barren on the trophy collection side. During an eleven game spell in charge of Rayo Vallecano (where he also played 112 times) in 2003 winning trophies wasn’t exactly expected. After being appointed Porto manager in 2014 however, trophies were on high demand. The Spaniard failed to deliver on that however as his Porto side equaled a club-record loss of 6-1 as they bowed out of the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich at the quarter final stage. After being knocked out of the Portuguese cup, he was relieved of his duties a week later which left him and Porto empty handed after 18 months.
Due to his success with the underage national teams, Lopetegui was given the task of taking over from treble winning Vicente del Bosque as Spain’s national team manager. They appear to have responded well to the 51 year old as they are yet to suffer defeat after his 20 games in charge. Spain have also scored in all 20 of these games; a record for a new Spain manager. In May, Lopetegui signed a contract extension with the federation to remain as head coach until 2020. One month later, the lure of Los Blancos was too much.
Florentino Perez and co. had a difficult job in replacing Zidane; winning nine trophies in just two and a half years in charge. Guti was expected to be unveiled as the new manager, this has not come to pass and experience of managing a first team may have gone against him. The fact Lopetegui has also been the coach of the likes of Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez and Isco lends to the idea that they would have relayed back good reviews to the president about Lopetegui.
There will undoubtedly be a lot of confusion over the course of the World Cup as to what Lopetegui’s plans will be at Real Madrid. The futures of certain players including Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale will also be brought into questioning. Ideally, Madrid would have appointed their successor to Zidane well before the World Cup had started. However, Julen Lopetegui has been given the official recognition all but three days before the World Cup kicks off for Spain against Portugal … an interesting summer awaits!!