Real Madrid finally sacked Julen Lopetegui after heavy defeat at Camp Nou 5-1, the defeat was Madrid’s third in a row in La Liga. The midfielder Casemiro called the team a “disaster” and described the defeat as the “image of our season”. Madrid had previously gone eight hours without scoring, just 12 minutes short of their worst-ever run, and they have lost five and won only one of their last seven matches – an unconvincing 2-1 victory over Czech side Viktoria Plzen that ended with supporters whistling to show their dissatisfaction.
Defeated in the European Super Cup on his competitive debut, Lopetegui has lost as many games as he has won in all competitions: six of 14.
On Sunday, Lopetegui insisted that he had the “strength” to carry on but the decision was not his. Madrid currently sit ninth in the table and the club released a statement on Monday evening confirming that they had unilaterally released the coach, who has now been sacked from the two biggest jobs in Spain in just four months. There was no press conference or appearance from the president to explain the decision.
The board understands that there is a great difference between the quality of the Real Madrid squad, that has eight players nominated for the Balon d’Or, unprecedented in the history of the club, and the results achieved until now,” read a club statement. “We are grateful to Lopetegui and his staff and wish them the best in their professional career.”
Santiago Solari, who manages Madrid’s B team Castilla, will take over on an interim basis, starting with Wednesday’s trip to face Melilla in the Copa del Rey.
Madrid’s president Florentino Pérez believes that he needs a manager to lead a dressing room that has become too comfortable, but the prospect of conflict from the start is not one that Conte can have relished.
One of the criticisms Pérez levelled at Lopetegui was that he was too indulgent of the squad and he rapidly lost faith in the coach – at least in part because he did not have much faith to start with. After Zidane announced his surprise resignation, Madrid sought to bring in a series of managers to take over, including Mauricio Pochettino and Max Allegri, before eventually turning to Lopetegui in the face of extremely limited options.
Few wanted to follow Zidane, winner of three Champions Leagues in a row. Some saw flaws in the squad, too – Zidane himself had warned of the need to make changes after a season in which, while they won the European Cup, Madrid finished third, 17 points behind Barcelona.
Although Madrid started the league season brightly and were impressive in their Champions League debut against Roma, results soon deserted them. Lopetegui lamented injuries and bad luck, but that excuse fail to convince anyone, meaning that it is results that speaks not complaints.
Pérez was also unhappy that there was no place for 18-year-old Brazilian signing Vinicius, who Lopetegui left in the B team. The club’s legal staff managed to get a ban overturned following a red card playing for Castilla last weekend, freeing Vinicius to play the clásico on Sunday. He travelled with the team, missing the Castilla game, but Lopetegui left him out of the matchday squad.
The manager’s position had already become all-but untenable. The clásico might have been an opportunity to avoid the inevitable, and some players expressed their support, but Madrid were defeated 5-1 and slipped seven points behind their rivals. “I know how football is,” he said afterwards.