Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lopetegui’s losing gamble on Real



Lopetegui’s losing gamble on Real

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Then Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui looks on before their La Liga match with Real Madrid at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP

Lopetegui’s losing gamble on Real

Julen Lopetegui’s brief and inglorious reign as Real Madrid coach lasted just 139 days after the club confirmed he had been sacked on Monday.

Lopetegui was dismissed following a meeting of the board of directors, who concluded there had been a “great disproportion between the quality of the staff of Real Madrid . . . and the results obtained to date”.

Santiago Solari, the club’s B team coach, has been put in temporary charge and is now expected to lead Real for their Copa del Rey game against minnows Melilla on Wednesday.

The Argentinian could also remain in post for Saturday’s La Liga match at home to Real Valladolid.

Lopetegui’s last game proved a humiliation as Madrid were hammered 5-1 by rivals Barcelona in the Clasico on Sunday. The defeat was their fifth in seven games and, seemingly, convinced president Florentino Perez that change was required.

“This decision, adopted from the highest level of responsibility, aims to change the dynamics of the first team, when all the objectives of this season are still achievable,” a club statement read on Monday.

“The Board of Directors understands that there is a great disproportion between the quality of the staff of Real Madrid, which has eight players nominated for the next Golden Ball, something unprecedented in the history of the club, and the results obtained to date.”

Madrid’s eagerness to emphasise the talent in their squad was noticeable and perhaps a reminder for potential successors, who may not be easy to find.

Antonio Conte is the early favourite but initial talks have not gone smoothly, according to reports in the Spanish press. Others linked with the post include Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and former Real Madrid midfielder, Guti.

Solari is the man in position, however, after two seasons with Castilla, in which he oversaw them finishing 11th and eighth in Segunda B.

For Lopetegui, the two biggest jobs in Spanish football have been lost in less than five months after his decision to join Madrid also cost him his role as Spain manager at the World Cup.

Spain subsequently failed in Russia under Fernando Hierro, their stand-in coach, and now Lopetegui’s failure at Madrid has been confirmed too.

Cracks appeared

Zinedine Zidane was always a hard act to follow given his three consecutive Champions League triumphs, not to mention the Frenchman’s popularity in the dressing room.

But beneath the celebrations in May, cracks were already appearing. Madrid finished 17 points behind Barcelona in the league, Zidane departed and then Cristiano Ronaldo followed, taking an average of 50 goals per season with him.

Perez opted against signing a big-name replacement, which left Lopetegui short up front, while the problems in attack quickly spread to the defence, where Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane have become increasingly erratic.

“It is not just Julen’s fault,” read the front page headline of Marca, Spain’s biggest selling daily, on Monday.

Madrid’s dreadful recent run showed no sign of abating at the Camp Nou, however. They have managed one win in their last seven matches, sit ninth in La Liga and earlier this month went more than eight hours without a goal.

Some now believe, perhaps Perez included, that the team needs a firmer hand. Conte is a demanding coach, meticulous in his tactical preparation and unrelenting when it comes to defensive organisation.

After Sunday’s game, Ramos pointedly stated that managing the dressing room at Real is more important than technical knowledge.

“Respect is earned, it isn’t imposed,” Ramos said. “Those are the coaches with whom we’ve won titles. Managing the dressing room is more important than the knowledge of a coach.”

The next coach will be tasked with closing a seven-point gap on Barcelona, who returned to the top of the La Liga table after their emphatic win last weekend.

Ramos insisted the title is not yet lost.

“There are people that would believe, others that wouldn’t,” Ramos said. “I have won La Liga from 10 points behind. The key to success is to work. Madrid never gives up when it can turn the situation around.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia resumes issuance of tourist visas

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has announced the resumption of its tourist visa and visa exemption programme after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter dated October 20 and addressed to foreign embassies and consulates, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the