Spanish National team head coach Julen Loptegui has been announced as the new head coach for the three times back to back Champions League champions, Real Madrid.
He is replacing coach Zinadine Zidane who stepped down a few days after claiming his third UEFA Champions League trophy in his three years at Bernabeu, after Beating English Side Liverpool FC 3 – 1.
The 51-year-old Lopetegui will take over as Real Madrid boss after guiding Spain in the forthcoming World Cup, of which he has been in charge for the past two years.
Sources have confirmed that he has agreed a three-year contract at the Bernabeu.
Lopetegui’s announcement has comes in as a surprise, with his name not featuring prominently among the host of managers linked with the role since the departure of Zidane.
It had been widely understood that the president of Real Madrid, Florentino Pérez, had made Tottenham’s Mauricio Pocchetino his first-choice candidate to replace Zidane. But the Argentinian had signed a contract extension at White Hart Lane the week before the Frenchman’s departure and attempts to negotiate with Spurs’ notoriously intractable chairman and chief executive, Daniel Levy, got nowhere.
Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte were also considered but proved too expensive. Lopetegui, meanwhile, extended his terms with La Roja only recently but the compensation clause in his contract was an insubstantial €2m, which Real have now paid.
Having taken over from Vicente Del Bosque as national coach in 2016, following a disappointing European Championships, in which they were knocked out by Italy in the round of 16, Lopetegui’s Spain have gone unbeaten in 20 matches. Lopetegui has revitalized their style and rejuvenated an ageing team. He will be expected to do the same at his new club where as many as five first-team players are no longer wanted by the club
Who is Lopetegui?
He is a former goalkeeper who made a sole league appearance for Madrid as a player before later turning out for rivals Barcelona.
He previously coached Madrid’s feeder club Castilla in 2008/09 before taking charge of Spain’s youth teams where he enjoyed great success, winning the U19 European Championship in 2012 before repeating the feat as U21 boss 12 months later.
He was sacked from a brief spell in charge of Rayo Vallecano in Spain’s second division in 2003 and left Portuguese club Porto after failing to win any silverware from 2014-16.
In May this year, Lopetegui signed a contract extension to remain as Spain coach until 2020 but the call of Madrid has proved too strong to resist.