Lopetegui Sacked As Real Madrid Coach

Real Madrid’s Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui looks on during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 28, 2018.
GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Real Madrid have sacked their coach Julen Lopetegui after just 139 days in charge, the club confirmed on Monday.

Lopetegui was appointed in June but five defeats in seven games, the last of them a 5-1 thrashing by Barcelona on Sunday, have convinced Madrid to make a change.

Santiago Solari, the club’s B team coach, has been put in temporary charge.

The decision was announced following a meeting of Madrid’s board of directors on Monday night.

A club statement read: “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.

“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.”

Solari will lead the first team from Tuesday and is expected to be in charge for the Copa del Rey game against Melilla on Wednesday.

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

In his two seasons with Castilla, Solari oversaw them finishing 11th and eighth in the Spanish third tier.

Lopetegui’s time as coach of Real Madrid lasted just 139 days, with his decision to join the club also costing him his job as Spain boss at last summer’s World Cup.

Real have managed only one win in their last seven matches, sit ninth in La Liga, and earlier this month went more than eight hours without a goal.

Antonio Conte is the frontrunner to be Lopetegui’s permanent successor, although early talks have not gone smoothly, according to reports.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and former Madrid midfielder Guti have also been linked with the position.

Lopetegui Vows To Fight Despite Uncertainty Over Future

Real Madrid’s Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui gestures during the Spanish league football match between Deportivo Alaves and Real Madrid CF at the Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria on October 6, 2018. ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

 

Julen Lopetegui has said he will fight to turn Real Madrid’s stuttering season around but could not guarantee he will be in charge for the Clasico against Barcelona on Sunday. 

Lopetegui’s future is in doubt just four months after swapping the Spanish national team for Madrid on the eve of the World Cup.

His side face Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Tuesday, on the back of five games without a win and having lost all of their last three.

“What I’ve learned about this club is to fight, that is the DNA of this club,” Lopetegui said at a press conference on Monday.

“That’s what we’re going to do, fight, both the players and the coaching staff. We know results haven’t been great but we are going to turn this around. We are going to fight.”

Asked if he knew that he would be in the dug-out when Madrid visit Camp Nou this weekend, Lopetegui said: “I’m here now, that’s all I can say. I am the coach at this moment.

“If you ask me what is going to happen in a month or a year, I can’t tell you. We’re focused on the present.”

Madrid’s poor run has left them seventh in La Liga while defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League last month sees them sitting third in Group G.

Key players have offered their support to Lopetegui. Captain Sergio Ramos has said it would be “crazy” to change coach so early in the season while Marcelo insisted the team was “with him to the death” after Saturday’s loss at home to Levante.

“The players are strong,” Lopetegui said.

“They are champions not by coincidence, but because they are strong.

“They have had bad times and bad moments but they have a lot of strength. They don’t get to be champions by believing everything they hear.”

Isco is perhaps among those most loyal after Lopetegui showed faith in him for Spain, even when the midfielder was struggling for games last season under Zinedine Zidane.

“I think it would be crazy (to sack Lopetegui), you have to let him work,” Isco said.

“He has only been here for two months, if you get rid of the coach you have to get rid of all of us. It is us that haven’t been scoring the goals or playing well.”

Isco was also keen to dismiss the idea Madrid are missing Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 44 goals in all competitions for them last season.

“We can’t look for solutions away from the club,” Isco said. “We have the solutions to create and score goals inside the club so we don’t need to talk about that.”

Isco took part in training on Monday, along with Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marcelo, all of whom carried injuries over the international break.

Dani Carvajal was the only absentee. The defender is still recovering from a calf problem.

AFP

I Believe In Real Madrid More Than Ever – Lopetegui

Real Madrid’s Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui gives instructions to his players during the Spanish league football match Real Madrid CF against Levante UD at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on October 20, 2018. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Julen Lopetegui insists he believes in his struggling Real Madrid team more than ever and remains calm about his future despite their 2-1 loss at home to Levante on Saturday.

Madrid made it five games without a victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, where they also set an unwanted record for the longest goal-drought in the club’s history.

By the time Marcelo had finally found the net in the second half, Lopetegui’s team had gone 481 minutes without a goal, passing the 464-minute dry spell Madrid endured in 1985.

Levante held on after scoring twice in the opening 13 minutes, as Jose Luis Morales and Roger Marti capitalised on mistakes by Raphael Varane. Roger scored from the penalty spot after Varane had handballed.

Asked about his future, Lopetegui said: “This is the last thing I am thinking about. I am only thinking about lifting the players quickly.

“We have a very important game in the Champions League in three days.”

Madrid host Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday, looking to atone for a shock 1-0 defeat by CSKA Moscow last time out. They then face Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

“I feel more encouraged than ever, I believe more than ever in this team,” Lopetegui said.

“For the effort they have made and for how they have reacted to their misfortune. The team has left everything on the pitch and this is the way to turn the corner, there is no other way.”

Lopetegui admitted he had witnessed a “sad changing room” after the match and his team were certainly not blessed with luck.

They hit the woodwork three times and suffered a two-goal swing as a result of the Video Assistant Referee. Roger’s penalty had been upgraded from a free-kick before Marco Asensio headed in at the end, only to have his goal ruled out for offside.

“It is clear that it is not deserved,” Lopetegui added. “But football is won by goals, not merit. We have done everything we think we have to do.”

Defensive mistakes, however, could have allowed Levante to add to their early double while a lack of composure in front of goal was just as much to blame as a misfortune.

Levante, meanwhile, continue their upward momentum under coach Paco Lopez, who took charge in March and steered them to survival with eight wins from 11 games.

They now sit seventh in La Liga, just a point behind Madrid in fifth.

“In the team-talk, I told the guys that talent has limits, but faith and conviction do not,” Lopez said.

“This team believes in what they are doing and I’m super proud of them.”

Madrid’s Lopetegui Under Pressure Over Loss To Levante

Real Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Daniel Ceballos (L) vies with Levante’s Spanish midfielder Jose Campana during the Spanish league football match Real Madrid CF against Levante UD at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on October 20, 2018. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Real Madrid failed to ease the pressure on their coach Julen Lopetegui and instead set the record for the longest goal-drought in the club’s history during a surprise 2-1 defeat by Levante on Saturday. 

The defeat means Madrid have now gone five games without a victory as Jose Luis Morales and Roger Marti’s penalty put Levante two up, before Marcelo pulled one back in the second half.

AFP

Lopetegui ‘Calm’ Over His Real Madrid Future

Real Madrid Appoint Spain Coach, Lopetegui As Manager
Real Madrid’s coach Julen Lopetegui                                                 Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

 

Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui said on Friday that he feels “good” and “calm” over his future at the club despite four winless matches.

“I feel good, I’m Real Madrid coach, the pressure is at the maximum,” Lopetegui said at the press conference prior to the Liga match against Levante on Saturday.

Real are fourth in La Liga and have not scored in six hours and 49 minutes, their worst drought since 1985. Spanish media have been speculating that Italian coach Antonio Conte, who left Chelsea in the summer, could replace Lopetegui if form does not improve.

Asked if he feels he has the support of the club, Lopetegui said  he was “absolutely calm” and added: “You have to live with all these ups and downs in a season knowing that we are where a team can reach any heights and the only recipe is to work, to keep going and to believe.

“We are focused only on the game tomorrow,” he said. “We know that this season there are questions for all teams. How the season will play out, nobody knows. We need to win on the pitch.”

Real open the weekend’s Spanish schedule. Atletico, who are third, play later in the afternoon. Leaders Sevilla, two points ahead of Real, visit second-place Barcelona in the evening.

“There are three points to play for,” Lopetegui said. “Three important points that could lift is to the top of the table.”

The Real coach said he had almost all his squad fit with the recovery of the injured Isco, Karim Benzema, Marcelo and Gareth Bale, without indicating if any would play against Levante.

“Today we will see, it is the last training session before the game,” he said. “We will make decisions tomorrow.”

AFP

Bale Fit To Play As Madrid Target Win Against Alaves

Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale Photo : CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

 

Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui has confirmed Gareth Bale is fit and ready to play as Real Madrid look to end their goal drought against Alaves on Saturday. 

Madrid have gone three games without scoring, after their surprise Champions League loss to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday followed a draw against Atletico Madrid and defeat to Sevilla.

Bale came off at half-time against Atletico last weekend and sat out the trip to Russia in midweek after feeling discomfort in his groin. Tests, however, have shown the injury is not serious.

“He’s fine, he has trained well,” Lopetegui said on Friday. “He detected some discomfort so he left the derby at half-time but he is ready. He is an important player, we know that.”

Madrid sit level on points with leaders Barcelona in La Liga but their lack of cutting edge up front is a concern.

Karim Benzema’s early-season form has evaporated while injuries to Bale and Isco, as well as full-backs Marcelo and Dani Carvajal, have contributed to a lack of creativity.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence, following his summer move to Juventus, is being more keenly felt.

“This is Madrid, we have to expect the criticism,” Lopetegui said. “We are confident we can overcome the problems. We have spent better times but worse times too.

“It seems everything is not wonderful at the moment but there are positives.

“We are joint first in the Champions League group and I have no doubt the team will pick up from where they left off in the first game against Roma. We deserved to beat CSKA but this is football.”

Lopetegui said Marcelo and Carvajal could be sidelined for a “few weeks”, with both players recovering from calf injuries.

Nacho is likely to take over at left back while on the right, Alvaro Odriozola replaced Carvajal against CSKA and could continue.

AFP

Sacked Lopetegui Backs Spain For World Cup Glory

Real Madrid Appoint Spain Coach, Lopetegui As Manager
Julen Lopetegui (File photo). Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

 

Julen Lopetegui has given his backing to Spain at the World Cup, despite being fired as coach just 48 hours before their opening game at the tournament in Russia.Lopetegui was sensationally sacked on Wednesday after the announcement that he would be taking over at Real Madrid following the World Cup, with Fernando Hierro hastily brought in to replace him.

“All the best in this World Cup to Fernando and a magnificent team and group of people: our Spanish national team,” wrote Lopetegui on Twitter as Spain prepared to take on Portugal in their Group B opener in Sochi.

“We will feel part of your strength, union, and passion,” added Lopetegui, who was unveiled by Real on Thursday after his sudden dismissal from the Spain camp in Russia.

La Roja had been unbeaten in 20 games under the former goalkeeper following his appointment two years ago, and came to the World Cup among the favourites as a result.

AFP

Spain Sacking Was ‘Saddest Day Since Death Of My Mother’ – Lopetegui

Real Madrid´s newly appointed coach Julen Lopetegui gestures during his official presentation at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on June 14, 2018. OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Julen Lopetegui said Thursday that the day he was sacked as Spain coach was the “saddest” since the death of his mother as he was officially unveiled as Real Madrid’s new manager.

“Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother. But today is the happiest day of my life,” Lopetegui said as he fought back tears.

“We are convinced that we acted in an absolutely honest and clear way.”

Spain’s World Cup preparations were thrown into turmoil on Wednesday after Real Madrid confirmed Lopetegui would take over at the Bernabeu for the next three seasons, catching the Spanish Football Federation by surprise.

Spain players reportedly resisted his sacking, which came as Spain are due to face European champions Portugal in Sochi on Friday before taking on Iran and Morocco in Group B of the tournament.

There were fears Lopetegui’s appointment by the European champions could open up old divisions between the Real Madrid and Barcelona factions in the Spain squad.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez called the Spanish football federation’s reaction to the club’s signing of Lopetegui “disproportionate” and “unfair” at his presentation on Thursday.

AFP

Real Madrid To Unveil Lopetegui As New Coach Today

Real Madrid Appoint Spain Coach, Lopetegui As Manager
In this file photo taken on June 11, 2018 Spain’s coach Julen Lopetegui gives a thumb-up during a training session in Krasnodar Academy ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

 

Just a day after he was sacked on the eve of the World Cup, former Spain coach Julen Lopetegui arrived in Madrid on Thursday where he will be officially presented as Real Madrid’s new manager.

Lopetegui landed at Madrid’s Barajas airport just before 5 am (0300 GMT). He will be officially presented as Real new coach for the next three seasons at an event at the Spanish giants’ Santiago Bernabeu stadium at 7 pm (1700 GMT), the club said in a statement.

“I am very sad, but we have a magnificent team and hopefully we’ll win the World Cup,” Lopetegui told reporters on his departure from Spain’s training base in Krasnodar on Wednesday.

Spain’s World Cup preparations were thrown into turmoil on Wednesday as Real Madrid-bound coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), with Fernando Hierro taking charge just two days before their opening game in Russia.

In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, Real Madrid appointed Lopetegui as Zinedine Zidane’s successor to take over after the tournament in Russia, sparking outrage among the Spanish federation and fans at the timing of the announcement.

“Negotiating is legitimate but it took place without the RFEF being informed until five minutes before a press statement was released,” federation chief Luis Rubiales told a joint news conference on Wednesday with Hierro.

“I have spoken with the players and what I can guarantee is that the players will do everything in their power, along with the new technical team, to take the team as far as possible,” he added.

Lopetegui, who did not lose a single game in 20 matches as Spain boss, had signed a new contract with the federation until 2020 just last month.

– ‘Biggest absurdity’ –

Spain players reportedly resisted his sacking, which came as Spain are due to face European champions Portugal in Sochi on Friday before taking on Iran and Morocco in Group B.

There were fears Lopetegui’s appointment by the European champions could open up old divisions between the Real Madrid and Barcelona factions in the Spain squad.

“You could not start a World Cup in a worse way,” wrote sports daily Marca.

Top-selling daily newspaper El Pais called Lopetegui’s dismissal “the biggest absurdity in the history of Spanish football” in an article accompanied with a photo of the sacked coach, wearing sunglasses, as he left Russia.

“Vaudeville at the World Cup,” wrote rival daily El Mundo, adding Wednesday was “the darkest day in the history of the Spanish national team”.

Hierro, 50, was named as an emergency replacement despite having only one season’s managerial experience in the Spanish Second Division with Real Oviedo.

He was popular among the players as the federation’s sporting director between 2007 and 2011, and returned to that role in November of last year.

With at least six of the expected starting XI for the Portugal game to come from Madrid and Barca, Hierro, himself a former Real captain, must ensure club loyalties don’t further undermine Spain’s chances with divisions already appearing between the players and the federation.

“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. The objective is to fight for a World Cup. The players have been working towards this for two years,” said Hierro.

“I’ve told the players that we have a wonderful, exciting challenge and we can’t let this be an excuse to distract us from our dream.”

AFP

Real Madrid Appoint Spain’s Coach, Lopetegui As Manager

Real Madrid Appoint Spain Coach, Lopetegui As Manager
Spain’s coach Julen Lopetegui will replace Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid coach after the 2018 World Cup. Photo: Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

 

Real Madrid on Tuesday announced the appointment of Spain’s Julen Lopetegui as their coach from next season, stunning the national team ahead of the start of the World Cup.

“Real Madrid announce that Julen Lopetegui will be the coach of the first team during the next three seasons,” the Champions League winners said in a statement, adding that the 51-year-old “will join the club after Spain’s participation in the World Cup”.

Lopetegui will replace Zinedine Zidane as coach at the Santiago Bernabeu, after the Frenchman quit on May 31 in the wake of their Champions League final win over Liverpool in Kiev.

The news comes as a jolt for Spain, just three days before their opening game at the Russian World Cup against Iberian neighbours Portugal in Sochi.

Lopetegui and the Spain squad are currently at their training base in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed that Madrid will pay compensation to get Lopetegui out of the two years he has remaining on his contract with the national team.

He only signed an extension to his deal until 2020 last month.

“The RFEF will receive payment of the release clause so that the current national coach can join Real Madrid,” read a statement, adding that Lopetegui would appear alongside federation president Luis Rubiales at a press conference at Spain’s Russian training base on Wednesday at 11:30 am (0830 GMT).

Spain are among the favourites to win the World Cup after an almost flawless qualifying campaign, and he will be hoping that the announcement does not overly unsettle his squad just before the competition gets underway.

Lopetegui’s national squad includes six Real players in Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Nacho Fernandez, Marco Asensio, Isco and Lucas Vazquez.

“The RFEF requests the maximum respect in order to maintain normality in the national team camp ahead of our debut in the tournament against Portugal,” added the federation’s statement.

Unbeaten record

Lopetegui was appointed as Spain coach in the wake of their poor showing at Euro 2016 in France when they were eliminated in the last 16, losing 2-0 to Italy.

Zidane quit Real after a remarkable two and a half years in charge during which he led the club to three consecutive Champions League titles, as well as one La Liga crown.

However, Real finished third in La Liga in the season just finished, 17 points behind champions Barcelona, and Zidane had admitted that he was unsure of his ability to oversee more success in the future.

His decision to quit as Madrid coach suddenly left the Spanish giants in limbo. Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino had initially emerged as the leading candidate to replace the Frenchman but will now stay in the Premier League.

As a player, Basque-born Lopetegui was a goalkeeper on Real’s books early in his career, and he returned for a spell in charge of their second team a decade ago.

He also briefly played for Barcelona and later led Spain’s under-21 side to the European Championship title in 2013.

He went on to coach Porto before succeeding Vicente del Bosque, who had overseen Spain’s triumphs at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 but had also been in charge for the disappointing group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

La Roja cruised through qualifying for this year’s World Cup, with nine wins and a draw in 10 games, scoring 36 goals and conceding three.

Indeed, Spain are still unbeaten under the Basque after 20 matches including friendlies.

AFP

Zidane, Guardiola, Lopetegui Pay Tribute To Iniesta

 

Zidane, Guardiola, Lopetegui Pay Tribute To Iniesta
Spain’s king Felipe VI looks at Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta kissing the trophy after the Spanish Copa del Rey (King’s Cup) final football match Sevilla FC against FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on April 21, 2018. Barcelona won 5-0.
LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has paid tribute to Andres Iniesta after he said he was leaving Barcelona and believes the midfielder should have won the Ballon d´Or in 2010.

Iniesta announced on Friday he will be leaving Barca at the end of the season, bringing an end to a 22-year association with the club. He is expected to move to China but is yet to name his next team.

The 33-year-old has enjoyed a glittering career, winning eight La Liga and four Champions League titles, but has never claimed football’s most prestigious individual award.

Iniesta was beaten to the Ballon d´Or by Lionel Messi in 2010, despite clinching the World Cup that year with Spain, and scoring the decisive goal against Holland in the final.

“What I’m going to say will maybe make headlines tomorrow,” Zidane said with a smile on Friday.

“I think he really deserved to win the Ballon d´Or when he won his World Cup, he had an exceptional year and he finished the World Cup by winning it, by scoring (in the final), so obviously that year he would have deserved it.”

It was the period when Iniesta was arguably at his best, as Barcelona won three consecutive league titles under Pep Guardiola, as well as the Champions League twice.

“I could spend a lot of minutes talking about him, he’s another part of the history of Barca in the last 15 or 20 years which would not be possible without him,” Guardiola said.

“I just want to say thank you because he helped me to understand the game better.

“Just watching him do what he does on the football pitch despite the amount of tackles, the way he’s a professional… I thank him so much for what he has done.

“When he decides to retire, maybe a decade from now, he will come back into football – at Barcelona especially – and he can teach others what he’s shown on the pitch.”

Iniesta is expected to announce his international retirement after this summer´s World Cup, when he will be hoping to go out on a high by winning the tournament again with Spain.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has no doubt about Iniesta´s motivation in Russia.

“Andres is a player absolutely in the first class,” Lopetegui said.

“I would not speak of Andres in the past, I speak of him in the present. The recognition he has had at all levels of international football is not earned by chance.

“How he has won and how he has behaved in victory makes him loved in all the stadiums in Spain and abroad, and that is a treasure very few players in history can have.

“He has maximum motivation to be at the World Cup and to finish well with his team like he did with Barca in the Copa del Rey final.”

AFP

Mourinho, Wenger Commend Players’ UCL Win

Mourinho, Wenger Commend Players’ UCL Win Managers of English clubs, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, have praised their teams’ performance in Wednesday night’s UEFA Champions League (UCL).

Chelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho, commended the Blues for not being content with a draw as his side’s 2-0 win over his former club, FC Porto, saw them progress into the last-16 of the champions league.

FC Porto Manager, Julen Lopetegui, had earlier said Chelsea remained favourite for the tie, insisting that their poor EPL form would not have a bearing on the match.

Mourinho expressed joy that his under-fire players were able to rise to the challenge during a tense evening at Stamford Bridge.

In another development, Arsenal Manager, Arsene Wenger, has extolled the Gunners’ character after Olivier Giroud’s treble inspired rampant Arsenal to reach last 16 of the league.Arsenal

Arsenal needed an emphatic win to leapfrog Olympiakos into second place in group F and had Giroud to thank for leading the cavalry charge in a 3-0 victory.

Wenger praised the whole of his team, who came together to produce an unforgettable performance despite a catalogue of injuries to key players.