The downfall of Julen Lopetegui

Real Madrid have fired manager Julen Lopetegui four months into a three year deal. With a 42.86% win rate over 14 games, the ex-Spain national team manager had it coming. The 5-1 defeat to Barcelona was the nail in the coffin for Lopetegui. A young manager who was touted as the next best thing a few months earlier has now been sacked twice in a year.

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Julen Lopetegui could have been on the verge of something amazing in June. He had 14 wins and 6 draws in 20 games and had successfully energized La Roja after the debacle of Euro 2016. Coaching your national team to a World Cup is the pinnacle of the managerial career path and he was taking a serious contender to a World Cup. In came Madrid and Florentino Perez. Within two days of Madrid announcing the Lopetegui deal, Spain’s football federation sacked Lopetegui.

Things were not so bad for him even then. He was taking over a team which had been designed to dominate and had already won three consecutive Champions Leagues and four in the last five years. The downside was following Zinedine Zidane would mean very high expectations right at the very beginning and Lopetegui seems to have crumbled under the pressure.

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Another factor against the Spanish coach was Ronaldo’s exit. Losing a player of this calibre definitely impacted the offensive potency of this Madrid team. Ronaldo not only contributes in terms of goals but he is also an indispensable influence in the dressing room, leading the team by example. Lopetegui’s father certainly seems to think that Ronaldo’s sale and the lack of a quality replacement was his son’s undoing.

Cristiano Ronaldo was good. Was he cocky? We all have defects, but it turns out he scored 50 goals a season. He is missing. You are missing a prominent goalscorer. They haven’t brought one, not a single one. There was talk of Neymar and others, but no one came. They have stolen 50 goals from my son. He has to settle with what he has and don’t get me wrong, he is delighted with the players he has. He usually says: ‘I have great people, they give everything they’ve got.’ He doesn’t blame the players. But when there is no material, there isn’t. There was but he left. – José Antonio Lopetegui

Whatever the problem was, it’s questionable why Lopetegui was hired in the first place. He has only done well at the international level with Spain and had not yet been to a major tournament. Lopetegui has never won a single trophy at club level and Madrid made a huge gamble hiring him. The trauma of getting sacked by the Spanish national team right before a World Cup might also have affected his psyche.

Manager trophy haul comparison

After two sackings this year, I sincerely hope things start looking better for Lopetegui soon. The Spanish federation will undoubtedly never hire him again at any level internationally and after the Madrid fiasco, he will not get any major team any time soon. His best shot is to find a smaller team and rebuild his reputation. This reminds me of David Moyes’ misery following Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Best of luck, Julen!


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Statistics source: Wikipedia, Photo from Pixabay.

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