Real Madrid’s latest defeat against Deportivo Alaves at the weekend means that the club have not won a game or scored a goal for 4 matches and the pressure is now on new coach Julen Lopetegui. Whilst that may seem unfair at this early stage of the season, it feels that Lopetegui has put this pressure on himself, because he should never have taken the job in the first place.
Let’s rewind back to the summer and Lopetegui was about to take the national side, Spain to the World Cup finals in Russia. With Spain, Lopetegui had remained unbeaten after 20 games with 14 wins and 6 draws. A few months before the World Cup he had watched his team dismantle Argentina 6-1 in a friendly. Talk switched from Spain were clearly past it to Spain must be one of the favourites for the competition. Lopetegui had come in fresh, dazzled some spice on the tika taka and for the first time in 6 years the national side had a belief in themselves once more.
And then on the eve of the World Cup Lopetegui was announced as new coach for Real Madrid. His thinking was that he would coach Spain at the World Cup and take over at Madrid immediately after. Of course that never happened and the Spanish FA sacked him on the spot for disrespecting the national sides duty and brought in Fernando Hierro on a temporary basis, he has been replaced by Luis Enrique now.
Getting an offer from Madrid may seem as if you can’t turn it down but the timing was wrong not just for the Spanish national side but also for Lopetegui’s career. Why would you coach a team that has reached the highest peak? The only way is down and this has been witnessed in recent years.
Take Jose Mourinho’s time at Inter Milan, where we won numerous titles and then in his last season won the treble including the teams first European Cup since 1965. He quits soon after and Roberto Mancini comes in only to see his new team collapse because they couldn’t keep the same intensity up with a new coach. Sir Alex Ferguson retired at exactly the right time, only for David Moyes to be the scapegoat and on a hiding to nothing. In short taking over from a great means starting a new era and perhaps Lopetegui should have left that to someone else and stayed with the national side.
Real Madrid have not only lost Ronaldo this season but also lost Zinedine Zidane and so this was always going to be a struggle. In short if Real don’t win another Champions League, then they have gone backwards and the only thing that could save Lopetegui’s job would be a league title. But Real have had the wind taken from them, and haven’t spent sufficiently in the summer. Lopetegui and Real Madrid were the perfect match but not in 2018, and it rather feels that Lopetegui has left his wife for a more beautiful woman only to be left standing on his own with no place to go.