In Depth

Real Madrid appoint Lopetegui: how pundits and fans reacted

Spain’s head coach signs three-year deal with the Champions League winners

It’s perhaps not the best means of preparing a national team for its biggest match of the year but that wasn’t a concern of Real Madrid as they unveiled Julen Lopetegui as their new coach yesterday. 

The 51-year-old is currently getting Spain ready for Friday’s group B opener against Portugal, the reigning European champions, but the Spanish media is now clamouring to know more about his Real Madrid move.

Since Zinedine Zidane tendered his resignation last month, days after guiding Real to a third consecutive Champions League title, there has been feverish speculation as to who would replace the Frenchman in the most demanding managerial position in world club football.

Guti and Mauricio Pochettino were among the favourites for the job but Real have gone for Lopetegui, who had been in charge of Porto before taking over as coach of the Spanish national team after their disappointing performance in the 2016 Euros.

Lopetegui’s career in focus

Lopetegui, who has signed a three-year deal, was a goalkeeper who made one senior appearance for Real Madrid but played the bulk of his professional football for the distinctly less glamorous Logrones.

While most of his coaching has been with the Spanish national set-up - from the under-17s through the under-21s to the senior squad - he has had two spells in club football.

Neither ended well, notes Sky Sports. The broadcaster reports: “He was sacked from a brief spell in charge of Rayo Vallecano in Spain’s second division in 2003. And left Portuguese club Porto after failing to win any silverware from 2014-16.”

Real to pay full buy-out clause

The Spanish Football Federation released a statement in which they said they would receive the “full buy-out clause” from Real Madrid for Lopetegui and then asked the media “for maximum respect in order that normality is kept in the national team’s training camp just ahead of our first game at the World Cup against Portugal”.

But there were less diplomatic words from the federation’s vice-president, Rafael Del Amo, who said in a radio interview he didn’t think “it’s the right time” to make such an announcement and expressed concern that it could distract the squad ahead of Friday’s crucial game.

What they are saying 

Rafael Del Amo, Spanish Football Federation vice-president: “I didn’t like it, this isn’t the news I wanted to hear at all. We have to be focused on where we are and what we’re here to do. I think they [Real Madrid] should have looked for another moment. Our players shouldn’t be impacted, they are super professionals but they don’t like news… you can’t predict how some will react, and for that reason this news isn’t timely.” 

Spanish daily newspaper Marca: “The likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp had been touted for the role… however Lopetegui’s exploits with Spain appear to have won out, given that he remains unbeaten ahead of the tournament in Russia having turned around an ageing team into one of the genuine favourites for the crown.” 

Guillem Balague, Sky Sports columnist: “It has been surprising for everybody. But if you look at it from the point of view of Real Madrid, there weren’t really many alternatives out there, and you are talking about somebody who has a brilliant record with the national side.” 

Vicente del Bosque, Spain’s World Cup-winning coach in 2010: “I always lean towards the Spanish coaches. I think Lopetegui is ready to train Real Madrid.”

How the football world reacted to the news

Not an easy start…

Expect Isco to play a big role.

Interesting timing.

No pressure then…

Should Manchester United fans be worried?

Not ideal for Spain.

He could have been manager of Wolves.

Biggleswade United send their congrats.

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