Lopetegui to take over at Real after World Cup

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui is Real Madrid's choice to replace Zinedine Zidane as manager of the LaLiga giants after the World Cup in Russia.
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui is Real Madrid's choice to replace Zinedine Zidane as manager of the LaLiga giants after the World Cup in Russia.

MADRID • Julen Lopetegui will have two chances to become a world champion this year.

The Spain coach will take over as Real Madrid manager on a three-year contract after the World Cup in Russia, the European champions announced yesterday.

The job Lopetegui has done to make Spain one of the favourites to lift the Fifa World Cup trophy next month has not gone unnoticed.

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 the 2012 European Championship.

And La Roja are unbeaten in Lopetegui's 20 games in charge - the longest unbeaten run of any team headed into the World Cup.

Lopetegui has been recognised for reinvigorating an ageing Spain side with the likes of David de Gea, Koke, Thiago Alcantara and Isco.

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.

Isco, Dani Carvajal and Nacho are among the Real stars Lopetegui coached to international glory in 2013. He will have the chance to lead those players out again when Real seek to retain their Fifa Club World Cup in December and Champions League crown next season.

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

Lopetegui, who last month signed a new contract through to 2020 with Spain, spent three years with Real as a player. The former goalkeeper spent a season as coach of Real's B team Castilla from 2008-09 before taking over as Spain U-19 manager in 2010.

His 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.

But his first managerial honour at senior level could yet be the biggest prize of all. Spain play neighbours Portugal on Friday in their opening World Cup Group B match in Sochi, before facing Iran and Morocco.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'Lopetegui to take over at Real after World Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe