4 Potential replacements for Lopetegui if Real Madrid decides to part ways
Real Madrid is in a state of flux at the moment. The club embarked on a new era at the start of the season, following the departures of not only former player turned manager, Zinedine Zidane, who is the most successful manager in the club’s recent history, but also the club's record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Zidane announced his resignation from the role in shocking scenes immediately after leading Real to her third consecutive Champions League triumph, and the shockwaves hadn’t fully settled from that when Ronaldo decided to trade Spain for Italy with his record-breaking transfer to Juventus.
Los Blancos set about finding a replacement for Zidane, and entered into secret negotiations with former Spain coach Julen Lopetegui, and announced his appointment just two days to the commencement of the World Cup, with the consequent effect being that he was sacked by the Spanish football federation.
In playing personnel, the club opted against going for a marquee replacement for Ronaldo, choosing instead to purchase a few relatively untested players to buttress their team, rather than go for a world-class galactico.
The decision seems to have backfired, as the club lost its first competitive fixture post-Ronaldo to Atletico in the UEFA Super Cup, and is currently in a terrible of form; winless in four matches across all competitions, and worse, going on its worst goal drought since 1985.
A lot of reasons have been given as to why the club is suffering, and even though there is some truth to those reasons, the bottom line is that at a club the stature of Real Madrid, excuses are never accepted, and like expected, the buck of the blame lies at the feet of the manager.
The players recently came out to state that the coach has their full backing, but any observer of football knows that more often than not, these are mere smokescreens. For a trigger-happy club like Real Madrid where results are all that matters, Lopetegui’s job could really be on the line if results don’t swing in his favour and fast.
The Real job is Lopetegui’s biggest till date, and barely four months into his tenure, he finds himself under intense pressure, with speculation already suggesting that his job is on the line, and that that the club has given him a one-match ultimatum (in the Clasico with Barcelona) to decide his fate, and that replacements are already being considered. Here are four potential replacements for Lopetegui should Real Madrid decide to fire him.
#4 Arsene Wenger
A ridiculous option at first choice, as Wenger goes against everything Real Madrid stands for. The Frenchman is not known for his luxurious spending, while his last major honour was over 15 years ago (With all due respect to the FA Cup).
However, dismissing the 68-year-old at first glance would be to ignore a fundamental aspect of Wenger’s last decade at Arsenal, which was the financial restriction placed on the club’s recruitment based on the huge expenses to build their stadium.
Wenger did not have access to top quality players, as the club was not financially buoyant to remain competitive in the market with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Man City for the best talent, so he instead had to devise a model whereby the club’s extensive scouting system sought out budding talent on the cheap across Europe, then bred them into superstars and sold them off for a healthy profit.
This model even though not translated into on-field success, was extremely useful for the club’s finances, and ensured Arsenal steady posted profits, which is an increasingly rare occurrence for big clubs today.
That Wenger was still able to achieve some modicum of success and ensure the club still qualified for the Champions League despite having such inferior players is a testament to his managerial abilities.
Wenger is one of the most innovative managers tactically in the history of the game, and his records with Arsenal in the earlier part of his tenure when he had the privilege of coaching some of the best players in the world speaks for itself.
At Real, Arsene would be in charge of some a team of World Class players, who are among the best in their position, so getting peak performances out of them would not be a problem, as the huge egos associated with the Madrid dressing room ensures that effective man management more than tactical ability is a requisite as Zinedine Zidane showed, and when it comes to man management, there are not many better than Wenger in the history of football.
Moreover, his appointment if taken would likely be a short fix, a short-term appointment in a caretaker capacity to oversee the managerial affairs of the club until the end of the season, and it is difficult to see beyond Wenger for a perfect fit for this role.