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FIFA World Cup 2018: The man who almost took over the reigns from Julen Lopetegui

Ashwan Rao
ANALYST
Feature
1.23K   //    14 Jun 2018, 12:03 IST

Albert Celades
Albert Celades (centre) with Julen Lopetegui

In what could be regarded as one of the extraordinary twists in the history of Spanish football, the La Roja have sacked their manager, Julen Lopetegui, just 24 hours before football's greatest spectacle kicks off in the Russian capital, Moscow.

It was announced on Tuesday that Lopetegui will take charge of the current Champions League winners Real Madrid, directly following his assignments with the Spanish national team in eastern Europe.

But his sacking just two days prior to Spain's opening fixture against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal has come as a huge surprise not just in the Spanish circle, but across the sport's fraternity too. Lopetegui has been replaced by Fernando Hierro - former Spanish footballer, who had served as the nation's sporting director.

The Spanish side is undoubtedly one of the contenders for the title at this year's FIFA World Cup, comprising of players who can regroup and display dominance when it matters most, delivering the results even under these difficult circumstances.

With that in mind, let us now look at the journey of the man who was also in pole position alongside Hierro to replace Julen Lopetegui at the helm.


Albert Celades

Albert Celedas
Albert Celades during a press conference

Celades began his career with the Barcelona B team, before making his senior breakthrough back in 1995. His four-year spell at the Catalan club was highly successful, as he won two La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey trophies, a UEFA Super Cup and Cup winner's cup too.

The former defensive midfielder, who was capped on four occasions, is the current coach of Spain's under-21 side and has been in charge since 2014, when then-coach Lopetegui previously left for FC Porto.

A successful, long-lasting career with experience aplenty

He managed Spain's under-16 squad for four years too. Celades was part of the national team at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, where they were knocked out in the first round after winning just one of their three group stage fixtures.

In 1999, he moved to another Spanish club - Celta Vigo. Here, he spent just one season before joining Barca's fierce rivals Real the following year. After a successive five-year stint with Los Blancos, he won four trophies including the 2001/02 Champions League.

In-between, he had a loan spell with Ligue 1 side Bordeaux before joining Real Zaragoza (2005-2008). The MLS came calling for Celades in 2008 following this, where he represented New York Red Bulls for one campaign before finishing his career at Hong Kong club Kitchee.

A player with a strong knowledge of the Spanish youth system, Celades is a perfect choice to replace Lopetegui if the Spanish board decide to go ahead with him in future.

Celades' name was also considered by Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales before going ahead with Hierro. His excellent credentials as Spain's youth team manager justify why he was mentioned (win percentage of 56.67%) during a five-year period. Spain find themselves top of Group 2 in the 2019 UEFA European under-21 Championship qualifiers with six victories from a possible six.

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Ashwan Rao
ANALYST
Sports- Love of my life
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