Julen Lopetegui: Real Madrid name Spain manager as new head coach
Julen Lopetegui has been named the new Real Madrid manager just weeks after committing his future to Spain’s national team.
Real Madrid have appointed Spain manager Julen Lopetegui as their new head coach on a three-year deal.
Lopetegui previously managed Porto for two years, before taking over at the Spanish national team in July 2016.
The 51-year-old will take up the position after the World Cup, which begins on 14 June.
A former goalkeeper, Lopetegui made one senior appearance for Real Madrid but played 107 matches for Logrones.
Real Madrid said in an official announcement: ‘Julen Lopetegui will be the Real Madrid coach after the celebration of the 2018 World Cup.
‘Real Madrid announces that Julen Lopetegui will be the coach of the first team during the next three seasons.
‘Julen Lopetegui will join the club after Spain’s participation in the World Cup, after two years leading the national team.’
The move comes as a surprise, with Lopetegui not featuring prominently among the host of managers linked with the role since the departure of Zinedine Zidane days after Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final.
Arsene Wenger, Antonio Conte and Guti were among the front runners to replace Zidane but Lopetegui has pipped the trio to one of the most coveted jobs in world football.
Lopetegui, who has been in charge of the national team for the past two years, has agreed a three-year contract at the Bernabeu.
It means Lopetegui, who has previously managed the likes of Porto, Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid’s B side for year, will coach Barcelona’s Spanish contingent for the next few weeks.
Lopetegui was seen holding talks with Barcelona star Gerard Pique at Spain’s training base in Krasnodar before Real Madrid made an announcement on the Spaniard’s appointment.
Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Nacho, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Isco are all currently working under Lopetegui as they were named in his 23-man Spain squad.
Lopetegui will get the chance to see Real Madrid star man Cristiano Ronaldo during Spain’s opening World Cup game on Friday evening.
The former goalkeeper came close to managing Wolves before he joined Spain in 2016.
Analysis – ‘Absolutely nobody was expecting it’
Spanish football journalist Andy West
As recently as Monday, Spain’s top selling sports newspaper Marca ran a story which claimed that Mauricio Pochettino was still Real Madrid’s preferred option for the vacant managerial position, with Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea’s Antonio Conte also in the frame and former players Michel and Michael Laudrup among the outsiders.
Among all those names, one was not mentioned – and had not been mentioned – since Zinedine Zidane’s abrupt departure: Julen Lopetegui.
That tells you just how much of a shock the news of the Spain boss’s Bernabeu appointment has been. Absolutely nobody was expecting it, and now there is fevered speculation about exactly why the news was broken three days before the national team’s World Cup opener against Portugal, rather than being kept under wraps until after the competition.
Whatever the reasoning behind the timing of the announcement, it’s a fascinating appointment for a man who has done very well at international level, winning the European under-21 title in 2013 and qualifying for this summer’s World Cup in impressive style, but who has minimal experience at club level and failed in his last domestic job with Porto.
Lopetegui’s strong relationship with Real’s Spain internationals like Sergio Ramos and Isco will ensure he receives a warm internal welcome, but he now faces even more pressure as he heads into a World Cup leading a team which was already burdened by very high expectations.