Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
After 138 days and as many defeats as victories, the inevitable happened on Monday evening as Real Madrid parted company with coach Julen Lopetegui. It brings to an end a miserable period for the 52 year old, who has been fired from two of the biggest jobs in Spanish football in a little over four months.
Julen Lopetegui ultimately gave up the opportunity to lead his country at the World Cup, in order to take over at the Bernabeu. Dismissed by Spain on the eve of the tournament, he was unveiled as Real Madrid boss the very next day only for his dream job to very quickly turn sour. His position looked virtually untenable even before Sunday’s 5-1 defeat at Camp Nou and from the moment the Full-Time whistle went in Barcelona, even Lopetegui must have been waiting for Florentino Perez to wield the axe. The dismissal finally came just 48 hours before Real Madrid’s next match, away to minnows Melilla in the Copa del Rey.
Suarez hat-trick inspires five-star Barca
— Barca Galaxy (@barcagalaxy) October 29, 2018
The clasico mirrored large parts of Julen Lopetegui’s troubled reign. There were spells of optimism and brief flashes of the quality that has fired Real Madrid to three straight Champions League wins. However in the blink of an eye, that optimism turned to despair as Barcelona exposed Real’s frailties at will in the latter stages to seal an emphatic 5-1 winning margin.
The scoreline doesn’t quite tell the whole story of the game. Barcelona were the better side in the 1st Half but not by enough to warrant a 2-0 advantage gifted to them with the help of the first ever VAR-awarded clasico penalty. The match really opened up after the interval though as Real Madrid came racing out the blocks with an intensity and urgency rarely seen under Lopetegui. For a while, Barcelona were on the ropes, with their lead cut to 2-1 courtesy of a strike from Marcelo as Real Madrid sensed the opportunity to stage one of the great clasico comebacks. Los Blancos hit the woodwork and spurned several chances to get back on level terms.
However as Lopetegui rolled one final dice, Barcelona went in for the kill, scoring three late goals to seal a comprehensive victory. Luis Suarez grabbed the match-ball, taking his clasico tally to an impressive 9 goals courtesy of a hat-trick just days after the birth of his third child. The scoreline may have exaggerated the level of Barca’s supremacy but will do wonders for the confidence of a team that finally seems to be emerging from the shadows of an extreme over-dependence on their star player.
Lopetegui sacked after just 14 games
The huge loss to Barcelona was Real Madrid’s fifth defeat in six games.
Julen Lopetegui has been shown the door – with a provisional replacement lined up.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 29, 2018
For the onlooking Florentino Perez, the result would have been virtually impossible to take. If his patience with a man who was never close to being his first choice was already pushing and perhaps past breaking point, a 5-1 clasico defeat to a Barcelona side without Leo Messi, was only going to bring one realistic outcome.
Julen Lopetegui’s sacking comes after just 14 games and at the end of a run of 5 defeats in 7. Losses against CSKA Moscow, Alaves and Levante in successive matches effectively spelt the end for the former Spain and Porto boss. Such defeats certainly can’t merely be attributed to the absence of Ronaldo or moments of ill-fortune, of which there were admittedly some at key moments in his reign.
However as the club statement that ultimately ended his tenure pointedly touched at, this was still a team with 8 Ballon d’Or nominees, unprecedented even at a club as decorated as Real Madrid. While many of those players ought to be taking a long, hard look in the mirror, in such situations a large portion of the blame will inevitably be portioned to the coach and the clasico defeat made it virtually impossible for anyone to argue against the case for change at the top.
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Where do Real Madrid turn next?
DEAL DONE: Santiago Solari has been appointed as interim head coach at Real Madrid as the club considers the options.
— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) October 29, 2018
In the short-term, Real Madrid have turned to Santiago Solari, the club’s B team boss who has been appointed on an interim basis. He will lead the team as they head to the African continent to take on Melilla in the Copa del Rey and most likely at the weekend when they host Real Valladolid in La Liga.
The move mirrors the appointment of Zinedine Zidane to some extent. Like Zidane, Solari is a former Real Madrid player whose only coaching experience to this point has come with Castilla. However the 42 year old Argentine isn’t of the same legendary stature of Zidane and isn’t thought to be viewed as a serious long-term option. He hasn’t had a great deal of success with Real’s reserve side in the Segunda B but will at least get a chance to stake his claim. In Spain, interim periods can only last a maximum of fifteen days, at which point he would have to be offered the job permanently or relieved of his duties.
The latter is still the more likely scenario but plans to appoint Antonio Conte appear to have stalled for now. The Italian is very much the hands-on type, a stance which may not fit with the structure of the club while club skipper Sergio Ramos and significantly former Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois are also said to be less than keen on the idea of the Italian taking over. Florentino Perez is known to seek the opinions of his senior players before making any appointments and will be aware that Real have had greater success under the stewardship of calmer characters such as Zidane, Ancelotti and Del Bosque, men who have been willing to take a more laid back approach to handling a dressing room that can be tricky to manage.
However Perez will have to balance that with the suspicion that this is a squad that has grown complacent and perhaps needs a more volatile character to come in and spark a reaction. Should that be the case then Antonio Conte, if the club can meet his other demands, could be just the ticket. Another option would be to wait until the summer by which time Jose Mourinho may well be available to take over. Despite a slightly unsavoury parting of the ways, Perez still values the job the Portuguese did at the Bernabeu, particularly in his ability to wrestle the 2011-12 title away from Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barca side. One way or another it’s likely he still has unfinished business with the Spanish giants.
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