Julen Lopetegui will take over as Real Madrid manager after the World Cup, the Bernabéu have announced.
In an official statement on the club’s website, it was confirmed that the current Spain manager will replace Zinedine Zidane as first team coach after the tournament in Russia.
Lopetegui, a former Real Madrid keeper who spent three seasons in the senior squad at the Bernabéu as back-up to Francisco Buyo between 1988 and 1991, went on to coach Castilla for a season in 2008-09 before taking over as Spain under-19 coach, from where he progressed through the national team system to the under-21s before moving back to club management at Porto, where he took over in 2014 and was sacked in January 2016 after being eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage.
Lopetegui to sign three-year deal at Real Madrid
The 51-year-old replaced Vicente del Bosque at the helm of La Roja after the defending champions’ disastrous 2014 World Cup title defence.
Lopetegui will put to pen to paper on a three-year deal at the Bernabéu running until 2021, the club confirmed.
Ronaldo future remains shrouded in uncertainty
The appointment of Lopetegui is likely to be welcomed by some of his pupils in the current senior Spain set-up, particularly Isco, who has been a favoured disciple of the former under-21 coach since they tasted European glory in Israel in 2013 with a team that also included Álvaro Morata, Asier Illarramendi, Thiago, Koke and in-demand Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno.
Isco operated mainly as a left winger under Lopetegui during his junior days but has been deployed on either flank in the build-up to the World Cup. It was from the right that Isco ran amok against Argentina in a 6-1 victory in Madrid in March, with Marco Asensio providing two assists from the left of a front three. Although Lopetegui naturally leans towards a 4-3-3, given his personnel at the World Cup Isco may well operate as a number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 behind Diego Costa after the striker's return to the fold, a position he would be happy to fill at club level as well.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been engaged in his annual game of cat-and-mouse with the club over his salary and it remains to be seen whether the appointment of Lopetegui will meet with the approval of the Bernabéu's main man. However, the omens from Lopetegui's side are encouraging for Madrid fans after the Spain boss praised Ronaldo in an interview six months ago: "He is one of the best in history without a doubt. His ambition is unparalled and never lets up and that is what makes him the player he is; a phenomenon."
Bale waiting on new manager's plans before deciding future
Meanwhile, Gareth Bale has stated that he would wait until the identity of Real Madrid's new manager was revealed before making a decision on his own future at the Bernabéu. The Wales winger will take some heart from Lopetegui's preferred playing style of a 4-3-3 with plenty of emphasis on moving the ball out to the wings, but like Ronaldo he may be mildly concerned about the Spain boss having a possible preference for players he has coached at various levels of the national side set-up.
"I feel I need to be playing every week, it's something that I've always wanted to do, something I feel like I should be doing," Bale said after the Champions League final. "If it's not the case here then it is something I really have to consider and sit down and do it."