Thursday 18 July 2019

Mauricio Pochettino in Real Madrid's sights after Julen Lopetegui's axing


Julen Lopetegui lasted just 14 games as Real Madrid manager, winning six matches. Photo: Reuters
Julen Lopetegui lasted just 14 games as Real Madrid manager, winning six matches. Photo: Reuters

Tom Morgan

Real Madrid have sacked Julen Lopetegui as their head coach following their 5-1 humiliation at Barcelona, sparking immediate speculation that the club will launch a fresh bid to lure Maurico Pochettino to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Talks have been held with Antonio Conte about becoming Lopetegui's long-term replacement but the chances of him arriving have reportedly been hampered by the Italian's legal dispute with his former club Chelsea.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has also been linked with the job, but club president Florentino Perez would prefer the current Tottenham manager as his first-choice solution.

Lopetegui’s sacking comes in the same week that Pochettino said he has reached his lowest point in nearly five years as Tottenham Hotspur manager.

Santiago Solari, the manager of Madrid’s ‘B’ team, has been installed in temporary charge of the first team for at least a month.

Real have shown a tendency to promote from within and their former midfielder and now reserve coach could follow in the footsteps of Zinedine Zidane, who stepped up to take the reins of the senior side midway through the 2015-’16 season and guided them to three successive Champions League titles before standing down earlier this year.

Lopetegui was presented as Real Madrid’s new manager on June 14 after Spain sacked him on the eve of the World Cup because they were unhappy at the way he had negotiated the move while under contract with the national side.

He was in tears as he described it as the “happiest day” of his life when presented at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he lasted just 14 games, winning six matches.

The 52-year-old leaves with the team in ninth place in La Liga.

Conte has won the league in Italy and England but his confrontational style ensuring that he is not the choice of the current Madrid players, with captain Sergio Ramos saying: “Respect needs to be earned, not imposed.”

Pochettino, meanwhile, said this week that he is unhappy that continued stadium delays have left Spurs at a disadvantage, compared to the rest of England’s top six.

He has also had to put up with a difficult few months in which there were no summer signings and several players returned from World Cup duty fatigued.

However, last week Pochettino brushed aside latest speculation that Real are planning a move for him. “I don’t have social media so I don’t receive much information,” he said.

“That’s why my head, my face, I look younger than I am.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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