Written by Antonio Diaz (@DiazJournalism)
Julen Lopetegui was finally sacked by Real Madrid last night after only four months in charge.
The news came after Real Madrid lost 5-1 in El Clasico in Barcelona, leaving them in ninth place in La Liga – closer to the relegation zone, than their rivals Barcelona at the summit.
The favourite to replace him is former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.
On June 13th 2018, Spain were preparing to start their World Cup campaign with Spanish manager at the time Lopetegui. They were 48 hours away from their opening game of the group vs Portugal when news broke that Real Madrid and Lopetegui had agreed a deal for him to succeed Zinedine Zidane as the new manager of thirteen-time champions of Europe, Real Madrid, a job many couldn’t turn down. However, the timing was questionable.
Many people said that Madrid shouldn’t have approached him during a World Cup. They also added how Lopetegui shouldn’t have taken the job without talking to the Spanish Federation. This started rumours that he would be sacked just two days before Spain started their World Cup campaign.
The Spanish Federation president quickly took action, and duly sacked Julen Lopetegui, releasing a statement saying: “You can’t do things this way, two or three days before the World Cup. We have been compelled to make this decision.”
We all know what happened next, with Spain getting knocked out in the last sixteen against Russia.
However, Lopetegui got his dream job, but the problems started before Madrid had even kicked a ball.
Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably one of Madrid’s best ever players, decided he wanted to leave. This would prove to be a huge issue for Madrid and Lopetegui if they lost their main man. How can you replace a player of that calibre?
Ronaldo then joined Juventus, and Real Madrid failed to replace him.
Madrid then lost the Super Cup to rivals Atletico – not a good start! Madrid looked very poor in the game and tired. However, most put this down to a World Cup hangover, so not too many questions were asked.
However, Madrid stared the season well, winning five of their first six games. They looked impressive, with pundits and football experts even questioning if they were playing better than before the Ronaldo and Zidane era.
Lopetegui had his dream start and it appeared like the right decision to take the job.
Then, Madrid fell to a shock 3-0 defeat away at Sevilla. This was then followed by a bore draw in the Madrid derby, then a shock 1-0 defeat away in the Champions League at CSKA Moscow.
Making matters worse, they then lost 1-0 away at Alavés, meaning Madrid went four games without winning and scoring.
Questions were rightly being asked about this new style of football they were playing and if it was right for the players they had. Madrid then humiliated themselves by losing 2-1 at home to Levante, a result that would never have happened normally.
At this stage many predicted Lopetegui would be sacked and Madrid were just waiting to bring in a replacement. People were also suggesting he would have until El Clasico to turn it around.
Madrid scraped past FC Viktoria Plzen 2-1 at home in the Champions League; a less than impressive performance but a much needed three points.
Then the biggest game arrived. The Clasico. Barcelona away. His biggest test so far as manager of ‘Los Blancos’.
Victory would be his only option to keep arguably the biggest job in football management. However, defeat would seal his fate and end his short time as Real Madrid manger.
The final result…a 5-1 humiliation with Luis Suarez scoring a hattrick.
Lopetegui was left speechless on the touchline, after watching his team get out passed, outrun and utterly embarrassed by their biggest rivals. Where had this team who had won three Champions Leagues on the trot gone?
Predictions said the manager would lose his job straight after the game, but he had to wait twenty-four hours before Madrid released the statement confirming the inevitable.
So where does Lopetegui go from here? He won’t be top of many Spanish clubs’ estimations after his actions over the last four months.
Real Madrid will move on quickly, as they always do, and hope whoever takes charge can turn this team around and get the results they desperately need, or their season could be over before it has really started.