Just football

Why Real Madrid made the right choice appointing Julen Lopetegui as next manager

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In a shock move, Julen Lopetegui will take over from Zinedine Zidane after the World Cup in Russia, as announced on the Real website on Tuesday afternoon.

Lopetegui, 51, remains something of an unknown quantity as a coach. After leading Spain to European Championship crowns at Under-19 and U-21 level,  he previously managed Porto for two years, but failed to win a single trophy.

He did enjoy a stunning 3-1 victory over Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

However, the return saw the Germans run out 6-1 winners, which was a record defeat for the Portuguese giants.

The only questionable thing about Lopetegui would be that he has not experienced any success at club level despite an impressive track record with the Spanish youth teams, but he has a record of getting the best out of young players, which is something Real Madrid are stocked with.

The likes of Isco and Marco Asensio, could perhaps be the biggest beneficiaries as he has transitioned some of the country’s best talent from the youth teams into the senior side and Real Madrid face a similar sort of rebuild this summer and beyond. 

 

Lopetegui and Isco
Lopetegui and Isco

He has good rapport with a number of key Madrid players and experience of getting the best out of them with both Spain and, previously, the Under-21s is obviously a huge advantage. 

Real Madrid fans should expect a more unified, tactically adroit and majestic football approach than Zidane did, as he has shown he likes players with strong football intelligence and technical skills over those with more physical prowess.

Which could see Marco Asensio with more playing time because he uses a 4-3-3 formation which can also look like a 4-5-1 when defending.

The first task ahead of Lopetegui will be to figure out whether Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale will be staying or not.

Lopetegui

Fundamentally, Lopetegui to Madrid has come as a surprise, particularly considering he agreed a contract extension with Spain less than a month ago, but tactically his move the Bernabéu is a great union which help them transition from a fading, glorious generation to what they hope will be a younger but similarly gilded one.

Zidane’s relationship with his squad was always seen as a major contributor to his success which got the best out of his side in the Champions League, where they won the competition three times in a row. Lopetegui – who came through Madrid’s academy – has had a similar impact with Spain.

Zidane

He took over after Euro 2016, he inherited a squad seemingly devoid of joy and hunger on the pitch following their last-16 knockout to Italy.

But in just under two years at the helm, he has successfully crafted a team that plays as a unit and appears completely functional all over the pitch, finding a balance between experience and youth.

Madrid fans, media outlets in Spain, the players, and the board need to support Lopetegui to succeed and accept winning three Champions League in row might not be possible.

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