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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Lopetugui Spain coach has been sacked few hours to the kick-off of world cup


SPAIN'S BIZARRE 24 HOURS
TUESDAY
4pm: Julen Lopetegui is announced as the new Real Madrid manager and it is confirmed he will take over after the World Cup
WEDNESDAY
8.30am: Spain announce they will hold a press conference amid reports Lopetegui's job is under threat
9.30am: The press conference is delayed by an hour as Spanish FA chiefs attempt to thrash out a solution to the problem
9.45am: Spanish players, led by Sergio Ramos, plead with the head of the Spanish FA, Luis Rubiales, to allow Lopetegui to keep his job
10am: Spanish superfan Manolo 'el del Bombo', who bangs the drums in support at matches, storms into the press conference, concerned about his team's fortunes at the World Cup
10.15am: Reports emanating from Spain that the players have convinced the Spanish FA's top brass to allow Lopetegui to continue through the World Cup
10.30am: The Spanish FA finally take the stage at their press conference, but there is no sign of Lopetegui
10.35am: Rubiales announces Lopetegui has been relieved of his duties and claims Spain knew of the manager's move to Real Madrid only five minutes before the club announced it.

Julen Lopetegui is an interesting choice to take over from Zidane. Started his career at Real Madrid and also coached Castilla, so he knows the club and also many of the players from his time with Spain's youth teams and senior side...

The timing is terrible though. This news now becomes the big story when Lopetegui and Spain should be concentrating on the World Cup. It's an unwanted distraction for La Roja and I can't imagine the players are particularly happy, either...

Real Madrid wanted to announce a new coach before the World Cup and they have. But it is not ideal either because Spain (and Lopetegui) could potentially be busy until July 15 (date of WC final). And there is important planning to be done at RM before that...

At the very least, Lopetegui is likely to be involved in conversations about squad planning, transfers, the futures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, etc. Which means his full focus is not with Spain. And it's not any old tournament – it's the World Cup!

Reports have claimed the announcement was made to avoid a leak and that makes sense because that could have caused more damage deeper into the competition. Nevertheless, it is far from ideal.

Apart from the Real Madrid players in his Spain squad, Lopetegui also coached Casemiro at Porto. He is a modern-day coach who is close to his players and is meticulous in his approach. He favors an attack-minded 4-3-3, so maybe more BBC after all...

He is also flexible, though, and it remains to be seen whether he will play 4-3-3 at Real Madrid. He has lots of options with the players at his disposal.

Lopetegui led Spain to European Championship wins at Under-19 and U-21 level, while he took Porto to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2014-15. However, he did not win the league in Portugal and was sacked the following season...

With Spain, he is unbeaten in 20 matches, with 14 wins and six draws. Those include a 3-0 victory over Italy in WC qualifying and a 6-1 friendly win against an Argentina team without Lionel Messi in March. His record is impressive, but so too is his squad.

If anything, he is untried at the highest level. The appointment is a risky one and not only because of the timing. However, with Real Madrid frustrated in their pursuit of Pochettino and others, there were perhaps not many other options out there...

Ben Hayward (Madrid Based Football Correspondent)

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