Five facts about embattled coach Julen Lopetegui
NEWS DIGEST -Barely three weeks after signing a contract extension with Spain which would tie him with the team until 2020, Lopetegui went and signed for Real Madrid without the Spanish Football Association’s knowledge and the announcement was made just two days before the World Cup.
His action was regarded as insensitive and insulting by the Spanish FA. As a result, he was given a premature exit from his position as the head coach of Spain’s national team.
Julen Lopetugui is obviously not a household name in the football community. The News Digest therefore presents to you five facts about the Spanish coach to increase your knowledge of the former FC Porto manager.
He played for rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona
A former goalkeeper, Lopetegui joined Real Madrid Castilla from Real Sociedad in 1985 at the age of the 19, linking up with the side’s highly successful youth setep. He was promoted to the first team ranks but failed to dislodge the veteran stopper Luis Arconada, instead going on loan to Las Palmas.
He played one game for the Madrid first team, in a 3-3 draw against Atletico Madrid when Los Blancos had already won the title in the 1989/90 season.
In Barcelona, he spent three seasons in the mid 1990s. However, He only played five La Liga games during that time, losing his battle for the No. 1 jersey with Carles Busquets, the father of Sergio.
Lopetegui started his managerial career at Vallecano in 2003, only one year after he retired from playing for the club. The Spaniard only managed the La Liga outfit for 11 games, winning just two before his dismissal.
Fast forward 11 years and Lopetegui was to receive just his second job in senior club management. Porto took a chance on the former player, but their risk certainly didn’t pay off. Despite winning 53 of his 77 games in charge while in Portugal, Lopetegui finished third in his first season in charge, winning no silverware. The coach was only to manage six months of his second campaign before Porto chiefs decided to sack him.
Lopetegui has managed all age levels of the Spanish national side. Starting in 2010, he coached both the under-19 and under-20 sides, achieving relative success. Lopetegui was then trusted with the under-21 responsibility, where he won all 11 of his games in charge. It was at this time Spain chiefs considered offering the 51-year-old the senior job on a full-time basis, before Porto came calling. But after Lopetegui’s subsequent dismissal from the Portuguese outfit in 2016, the top job was eventually offered to him.
Since taking over the former World Cup winners, Lopetegui proved a popular choice among Spaniards. The nation won nine of their ten matches in qualifying phase, drawing the other to Italy.
He was very close to joining newly promoted Wolves
Before being unveiled as Spain boss, Wolves were heavily linked with hiring Lopetegui. After his Porto dismissal, the new owners of the Midlands outfit saw the former Madrid star as the man to lead the club to the Premier League. And Lopetegui admits he came very close to taking over at Wolves before Walter Zenga was appointed. “When the federation called, naturally my objective became the national team, but it’s true that before that Wolves and I had been working hand in hand for some time,” he said in 2016.
“It was very close but in the end it wasn’t to be. I enjoyed the time I spent with them; there were offers from the Premier League but their project was especially attractive. Wolves is a great club, where there would be significant investment and a desire to grow, to shine again.” He said.
He has a close relationshio with David De gea
This revelation will be music to the ears of the Real Madrid faithful. The club’s long-term goalkeeping target and arguably the best in the business, David De Gea shares a close bond with the new manager. If you connect the dots, we may well see De Gea in Real Madrid colours after the World Cup.
De Gea’s agent Jorge Mendes is close to Julen Lopetugui which may further aid Real Madrid’s cause. Lopetegui’s move to the Bernabeu was masterminded by agent Carlos Bucero – a man said to be on excellent terms with Mendes and De Gea.
Also, the Spanish boss has always spoken highly of his no.1 goalkeeper. And the duo go a long way back too. It was De Gea who was the goalkeeper in Lopetugui’s Spain’s U-21 team that won the European Championship in 2013.
He is a fan of Lionel Messi
This revelation is definitely not music to the ears of Real Madrid fans. The new Real Madrid boss once called Lionel Messi “the best of all time” in an interview with Argentine outlet ‘TyC’. This wouldn’t have made an issue before but now being associated with Los Blancos, Lopetegui may have to change his opinion as soon as he takes charge at the Bernabeu.
With Cristiano Ronaldo in the ranks, Lopetegui would not want his talisman to throw a new fit after his contract demands. But the Spaniard has showered praises on the Argentine superstar on numerous occasions. In an interview with ’20 minitos’, Lopetugui once said, “He’s made the difference in so many ways over a continuous period of time. It’s a joy to watch him play.”
Also ahead of the World Cup, when asked about Lionel Messi, Spain’s manager said, “It’s extremely unlikely that we’ll see another player like him.”
Real Madrid faithful will have to swallow a bitter pill reading the views of their new manager on their bitter rival’s greatest ever player. But with Lopetegui now being appointed as the Real Madrid coach, expect an end to his lavish comments on Lionel Messi.
Have a story to tell, or images to share on a breaking news in Nigeria or beyond? Send them to the NEWS DIGEST via Whatsapp (08164847752)
Share your views in the comment section below.