Wednesday 20 February 2019

Great white Lope'

Real take gamble on Spain boss Lopetegui as Zidane replacement

Bernabeau role: Julen Loptegui will replace Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid manager after the World Cup
Bernabeau role: Julen Loptegui will replace Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid manager after the World Cup
New boss: Cristiano Ronaldo, pictured in Portugal training yesterday, will face his new manager at Real Madrid, Julen Lopetegui, in Friday’s World Cup Group B clash against Spain

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui will take over as Real Madrid manager on a three-year contract after the World Cup, the European champions have announced.

Frenchman Zinedine Zidane stepped down two weeks ago, days after leading Real to a third consecutive Champions League title.

Lopetegui, who last month signed a new contract through to 2020 with Spain, spent three years with Real as a player, making a solitary first team appearance in 1990.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said in a statement that it would receive "the full buy-out clause so the current national team boss can sign for Real Madrid".

"The RFEF asks for maximum respect in order that normality is kept in the national team's training camp just ahead of our first game at the World Cup against Portugal," the statement added.

The 51-year-old took over as Spain coach in 2016 following the retirement of Vicente Del Bosque who led his country to victory in the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship.

Spain, unbeaten in 20 games under Lopetegui, play neighbours Portugal on Friday in their opening World Cup Group B match in Sochi, Russia before facing Iran and Morocco.

Former goalkeeper Lopetegui spent a season as coach of Real's B-team Castilla from 2008-09 before taking over as Spain Under-19 manager in 2010.

He enjoyed success with the country's youth sides, winning the 2012 Under-19 European Championship before repeating the feat as Under-21 boss 12 months later.

Lopetegui's forays into club management have been less successful. He was sacked from a brief spell in charge of Rayo Vallecano in Spain's second division in 2003 and left Portuguese club Porto after failing to win any silverware from 2014-16.

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