The departure of Ronaldo, no new faces and a Real Madrid squad complacent on success – all conspired against Julen Lopetegui…as well as karma biting back
Many things can be thrown around regarding Julen Lopetegui’s sacking. However, there’s something that remains crystal clear. Many, including yours truly, saw this coming a mile away, exactly since the day the coach betrayed a whole country and chose the shiny badge of Real Madrid.
Julen had the chance of taking part in and, who knows, maybe even winning the World Cup, engraving his name in history right next to Luis Aragonés and Vicente del Bosque. Unfortunately, he chose glitter and stardom over duty. You know, the old ‘this is the chance of my life’ argument. And he chose… poorly. That’s what he might have realized after getting the boot unceremoniously after only 137 days at the job.
Karma-wise, it just didn’t seem a good idea betraying a whole nation.
Zidane was the smartest of the bunch. He saw from within (something pretty remarkable, as usually people inside a locker room tend to ignore signs) that Real might have won the Champions League, but that they definitely didn’t deserve it. The football gods favored a team which took advantage of a huge number of crucial head-or-tails moments throughout the competition. When Madrid were always this close to failing, the Zizou’s men always came away unscathed.
Zidane knew that time was up for Real Madrid
That’s why Zidane, knowing that such an amount of fortune wouldn’t last, stepped away and resigned. The Frenchman had run his course and will forever remain as one of the most successful managers both in Spain and in the world. His successor, though, would face an impossible task with a squad with no hunger left at all after three Champions League wins in a row.
Lopetegui should have known that something was off when Cristiano Ronaldo left and no reliable world-class striker came in to fill the void. The coach’s father put it in an absolutist way: “My son has been robbed of 50 goals per season!”, he stated in an interview on Monday, only hours before Real Madrid announced they were firing the former goalkeeper.
By the way, let’s talk about that statement, shall we? At this point, everybody and their dog knows that president Florentino Pérez is the one to call the shots both inside and outside Real Madrid. He has an affinity with certain journalists who are the ones who do the dirty work, the Madrid president pulls the strings in the media and is also responsible for the decision-making.
In this context, it was pretty clear he and the board weren’t going to be harsh on themselves for such a poor summer in the transfer market, making the team weaker while other sides reinvigorated their rosters.
“The board considers there to be a large disparity between the quality within the 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”. There you go. The job of the board has been flawless, so Julen, please pack up and go home. And, close the door behind you.
Florentino Perez passing the buck
Blaming everything on the manager is an old football tactic, but it seems to do the job with most fans. At least, when the manager himself doesn’t fire back and accepts the firing humbly, thanking Real for the opportunity. I guess being fully and generously paid his three years of contract also does the trick.
To understand what the heck is going on at Real Madrid, we only have to check out how clashes of personality happen daily between the players. Casemiro said after El Clásico that the team had been rubbish, and soon Ramos answered that it wasn’t the time to say those kind of things (when is it, then?).
Gareth Bale has challenged the management team quite a few times this season with his injuries, which were major or minor depending on the games that were to be played with Wales. Benzemà keeps living in his fantasy world, and Sergio Ramos’ performances have been severely lacking.
In fact, only one single player has spoken about the firing of their manager: “I will always be thankful to Julen Lopetegui, one of the individuals who made my return home possible. I wish him the best”, said Mariano Díaz. No other player has talked publicly about the matter 48-hours after his head rolled.
Now, it’s Solari time. While Real Madrid scramble to seduce Antonio Conte, coax Roberto Martínez or come up with another wild card coach, Santiago Solari will be the one in charge for a few days. His welcome statement was, to say the least, surprising: “We have to go to Melilla and play with ‘cojones’”. A guy who is well-known for his brains, for hobbies such as reading or playing chess, stomping his feet in his debut presser with a gutsy, bold, aggressive message was peculiar.
Solari’s words were out of character but, again, this might be what the players need. Everybody knows that this squad is capable of the best; however, as seasons go by, increasingly less and less people know which are the things that really motivate them and make them ‘tick’.