The Real Madrid manager’s seat has been one of the hottest to occupy in world football. Florentino Perez has made sure of that. It is one job where not even a league title win is enough to save your job as manager. Fabio Capello, Bernd Schuster, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti can all bear witness to that. Zinedine Zidane took over from Rafael Benitez after playing understudying to Ancelotti, while the Italian was in charge. But the Madrid legend surprised everyone: winning back-to-back-to-back Champions League trophies was rather unexpected from the Frenchman.
After his third consecutive UCL win, he was done. Staying on was not necessary knowing where he was. As a matter of fact, his UCL run was perhaps the reason he lasted that long on the job. He was not about to push his luck. Barely a week after lifting the trophy in Kiev, he announced he was stepping down from his position. It came as a surprise to few; he had gone so high it was unlikely he could go any higher. Leaving when the ovation was loudest was the best decision.
A new chapter
With Real Madrid, the wheels never stop. They are not the most successful football club in history for nothing. Zidane’s end marks the beginning of a new chapter. Enter Julen Lopetegui.
The former Real Madrid and Barcelona goalkeeper has had a somewhat volatile career as a manager. He was sacked just after ten matches into his very first job as the head coach of Rayo Vallecano, where the club was subsequently relegated to division three in the 2003-04 season. He has, however, achieved considerable success with Spain’s youth teams; leading both the European U-19 and U-21 squads to title wins. After the expiration of his contract with the national sides in 2014, he later joined Portuguese club side, Porto.
His time with the 2004 Champions League winners yielded no fruitful results, as the club failed to win a single trophy under his tutelage. After two seasons in charge, he was relieved of his duties. He was to redeem his image as manager of the Spanish national team as he led the team on a twenty game unbeaten run on their way to the World Cup in Russia.
Real Madrid will be favourites
Real Madrid’s appointment, which led to his dismissal by the Spanish Football Federation, opens a new and interesting chapter for the manager. Suffice to say that his record as a manager in club football has not been impressive. After getting to the semi-final of the UCL in his first season in charge of Porto, the club was defeated 6-1 on aggregate by Bayern Munich. Be that as it may, Real Madrid is a monster in the competition. Leading the way in La Liga with 33 triumphs also means the Spanish giants are always favorites to lift the title at the beginning of every season. That is irrespective of whoever is the manager.
The transfer of star player Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus also presents a problem for the Champions League holders. Ronaldo has been instrumental to Madrid’s success during his time at the club. Replacing the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will be no easy task.
Similarly, Germany went into the 2018 World Cup as defending Champions but plummeted to the bottom of their group. German’s experience is not new either: Die Mannschaft were following a pattern that is fast becoming a tradition; France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014.
However, Lopetegui comes fully prepared for the task at hand and believes he is the right man to take the club forward. He is confident whatever happens in the transfer window, he will steer the club towards success.
“We will have a great team and prepared to face all challenges with maximum guarantees,” he stated during an interview.
Irrespective of his optimism, his history in club football calls for caution. Yes, he may ultimately get things right and lead the team to another era of success, but it is not going to happen overnight. Whatever success he may achieve, matching Zidane’s consecutive European success is out of the question.