Monday October 22 2018
Is it time for Real Madrid to abandon Julen Lopetegui project?

Julen Lopetegui deserves time to turn Real Madrid mess around but as Kieran Thomas writes, he is unlikely to receive a reprieve at this stage.

When Florentino Pérez makes the enviable phone call to a Coach and asks them to take the reins at Real Madrid, from the outside looking in - how can anyone say no? A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, right? To sit in the home dugout, just as the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and José Mourinho did before you must be a surreal moment for any Coach regardless of previous achievements.

But when it goes south – and in Julien Lopetegui’s case, goes south relatively early in the campaign – the spotlight is on you and its not going anywhere any time soon. That is when the magic of Los Blancos surely starts to fade. After an impressive six-game unbeaten start to the season, Real Madrid are now five games without victory in all competitions, with four defeats and one draw. That doesn’t make good reading for any Madridista and to place a bet on them regaining their league title this season would now offer significantly longer odds than just a few weeks ago.

The most notable slip up in their recent run was the 3-0 thumping handed to them by Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán which was also the result which kickstarted the bad run of form both in terms of goals and results. They finally quenched their thirst for a goal – after waiting 481 minutes to find the net – in their 1-2 defeat to Levante, but their troubles remain.

This was a club record goal drought which surprised many considering the fact that Lopetegui’s men had scored an impressive 15 goals in their opening six games in all competitions before the Sevilla clash. Now the Coach is clearly under pressure and considered by many to be on the brink. Perez has summoned the 52-year-old to an emergency meeting with the club seemingly in crisis.

With El Clásico literally around the corner, it’s unclear whether or not the hierarchy at the club would render the team Coach-less with a must-win game incoming. It is of course entirely possible that Perez and supporters had seen enough promise from Los Blancos in the opening five La Liga games to stick with the Spaniard who threw away the chance to coach at a World Cup to take the job.

Lopetegui started his coaching journey with Rayo Vallecano in 2003, lasting just over four months before being dismissed with only two victories from eleven games. He then spent one year with Real Madrid Castilla, generating a win percentage of 47.37%. Progressing through the National team’s youth ranks from U19 to U21 over a period of four years he lost just one game from a total of 32, landing the FC Porto job as a result.

Just over two years in Portugal and despite only registering nine defeats during that period, Benfica were untouchable in Primeira Liga and Lopetegui returned to Spain as the new national team Coach. Overall his managerial record is respectable, the glaring lack of silverware at senior level is a sticking point but if given the opportunity to complete at least one full season and a second transfer window it could still work out for the Spaniard in Madrid.

Following the success Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane brought to the football club was never going to be easy to replicate, especially given the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo has since departed. Lopetegui needs time to build his own squad.

Despite this, even if they get three points in their upcoming Champions League tie, defeat at the Camp Nou surely would be the end of the Lopetegui era in Madrid. And with Antonio Conte rumoured to be the next man to take the weight of Los Blancos onto his shoulders, there could be a fresh face in the famous Bernabéu dugout sooner rather than later.

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