Axe falls on Julen Lopetegui as Real Madrid manager after 5-1 loss to Barcelona

An embarrassing El Clasico loss means that the former Spain manager's four-month run in charge of Real Madrid is over

Photo credit: Evening Standard

It’s amazing what a thrashing at the hands of your biggest rival can do to your team. After a Lionel Messi-less Barcelona destroyed Real Madrid 5-1 in El Clasico over the weekend, the latter dumped team manager Julen Lopetegui. The former manager of the Spanish national team was only on the job for four months.

In a statement released by the club, the Real Madrid board of directors, “considers there to be a large disparity between the quality within the Real Madrid squad, which boasts eight nominees for the next Ballon d’Or award – an unprecedented number in the club’s history – and the team’s results to date.”

It’s a pretty quick fall for the former goalkeeper at the club that calls the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu as its home. Following Vicente del Bosque’s retirement from managing the national side in 2016, Lopetegui was tabbed by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to succeed him. This was no small appointment as del Bosque delivered a European Championship in 2012 on top of the nation’s first FIFA World Cup in 2010.

Still, Lopetegui seemed up to the challenge, guiding his veteran-laden squad to nine wins and one draw to qualify to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Though the team was aging, it was still viewed as a powerhouse and many believed that La Furia Roja could snag a second World Cup upon arriving in Russia. That’s when things got strange.

Mere days before the tournament began, Real Madrid announced that Lopetegui would succeed the departed Zinedine Zidane as team manager with a three-year contract. The next day, the RFEF dismissed Lopetegui from national team duty and Fernando Hierro took over. Spain was able to advance to the knockout stage, eventually losing to hosts Russia via penalty kicks.

As for Lopetegui, his arrival at the 13-time Champions League winners immediately started off on the wrong foot when, less than one month after his appointment, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was sold to Juventus for 100million Euros. In his first game in charge of Real Madrid, Lopetegui’s side fell to Atletico Madrid 2-4 while competing for the UEFA Super Cup.

By October 20, bells and whistles around the Bernabeu were ringing after Real Madrid went past the eight-hour mark without scoring a goal, and a 1-2 home defeat against Levante. The crippling loss to the hated Catalan rivals over the weekend was the final nail on Lopetegui’s coffin, especially since Barca were without Lionel Messi who had a broken arm. Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez’s hat trick powered Barcelona, and Lopetegui was out. He only lasted just 14 matches in total, with six wins, two draws, and six defeats in charge of the 33-time La Liga titlists.

“The club places on record its thanks to Julen Lopetegui and all of his coaching staff for their efforts and work and wishes them all the best in their future careers,” the official statement continued. “Santiago Solari will take temporary charge of the team, assuming his role as first-team coach from tomorrow, Tuesday.”

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