Wednesday 23 January 2019

Julen Lopetegui move to Real sparks furious reaction

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty

Richard Martin

The backlash against the announcement that Julen Lopetegui was quitting his job as Spain coach to take over at Real Madrid was swift and pulled no punches.

Two of the country's leading newspapers published stinging editorials, which slammed the coach for causing a huge distraction for his squad and for negotiating the move when he should have had his sole focus on preparing for Friday's opening game against Portugal in Sochi.

"Contracts in football may be made of plasticine but two days before a World Cup, you cannot risk being seen as a pyromaniac in your own home," said 'El Pais'.

"Coaches need to be leaders and the worst example they can set is putting themselves ahead of the group like this."

Fellow broadsheet 'El Mundo' thundered: "This is a crime against the state, against public order, because one club can never torpedo the flagship of Spanish football, which has always been the Spain team," it said.

It is believed Real Madrid were forced to make the surprise announcement yesterday after the six Real players in the Spain camp learned of the news and another player also found out about it, leading Lopetegui to fear it would leak out and create unrest.

It all points to terrible planning and organisation within the national team set-up when the only objective should be on having the best preparation possible for the tournament after their disastrous exit from the group stage as holders in 2014.

A former journeyman goalkeeper, who played one game for Real and, like Zinedine Zidane, also coached their reserve team, Lopetegui has had scant experience at club level, with his only major job being an 18-month, trophy-less spell with Porto.

Indeed, before he took the Spain job in July 2016, he was in negotiations to take over at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Lopetegui has made the significant leap from almost taking the dugout at Molineux to the top job at the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to his excellent record with the national team, having turned the burnt-out side he inherited from Vicente del Bosque into one of the top candidates for the World Cup, going unbeaten in 20 games and enhancing the thrilling style of play.


His careful management of the Spain dressing room and his close relationship with players such as Madrid's Isco, Dani Carvajal, Marco Asensio and captain Sergio Ramos is also thought to have won him support at Real Madrid, who turned to him once their top target Mauricio Pochettino was ruled out for his high price after signing a new deal with Tottenham. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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