Opinion: The possible impact of Real Madrid's dismissal of Julen Lopetegui on Chelsea
After Sunday's shameful 5-1 defeat in El Clasico, Florentino Perez and Real Madrid had no option but to fire Julen Lopetegui. His appointment as manager, poached from the Spanish national team just days before the start of the World Cup, may have come as a surprise.
However, his Real Madrid sack was always on the cards after their dreadful start to the season, with Los Blancos languishing in mid table after 10 games. For a club of this stature, anything short of winning LaLiga or the Champions League each season is a failure.
Real Madrid have a history of firing underperforming managers quickly, with Rafael Benitez and Jose Antonio Camacho being other recent short term causalities.
It is a club where success and trophies are demanded and not desired. While Santiago Solari has been appointed interim manager, it is unlikely Real will wait till the summer to appoint a replacement with the new season having just started.
So the big question is who will take up one of the most demanding jobs in world football? The answer is solely linked to club president Florentino Perez.
Rival and ex-president Ramon Calderon is on the prowl again, and Perez needs to make a statement with a new managerial appointment. Already things were unsettled at the Bernabeu after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and this sacking has added fuel to fire.
What options does Perez have then? If media reports are to be believed, its a choice between Antonio Conte, Roberto Martinez, and Mauricio Pochettino. Lets discuss the possibilities of all three, and the impact it could have on Chelsea and their superstar, Eden Hazard, who is widely believed to be the galactico singing to fill the void left by CR7.
If Perez wants instant success and easy availability, then Antonio Conte is his man. The Italian knows how to win trophies, has an impressive record in Italy as well as England, and is free at the moment.
He is a master tactician, and is known for getting the best out of his players - something which Real need, considering that the club statement pointed out that the 8 players nominated for the Balon d'Or need to perform better.
If Conte moves to Madrid, then Chelsea fans can breathe easy because Hazard had a frosty relationship with Conte during his time at Stamford Bridge. He was burdened by defensive duties in the Italian's preferred back three formation, while current Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has brought out the best in him by giving him a more attacking and free minded role.
Another option is Roberto Martinez who might prove to be a fan favourite with his attacking philosophy of football. Being Spanish, he would be made to feel more welcome at the club, and would find it easier to settle in.
He could also be easily available as he is employed with the Belgian national team, and not tied to a club. However, his club managerial record is nothing to write home about, and Perez may not be willing to take this gamble at such a critical stage.
Should Real opt for Martinez, then they would also almost definitely seal the transfer of Hazard. The duo have a good working relationship with the Belgium national team, as Martinez handed over the armband to his maestro for the World Cup. Hazard has flourished for his country in the attacking role given to him by Martinez, and the duo would be able to continue their chemistry at Real.
The dark horse in this race is Mauricio Pochettino. He was on Real Madrid's radar even when they appointed Lopetegui, and they are still rumoured to be actively tracking him. The Argentine has a good club record, having excelled with Espanyol in Spain and then furthering his reputation with Southampton and Spurs in England.
He has brought Spurs to a level where they are consistently competing for a top four finish in the league. That is an achievement in itself, but he is unlikely to do even better unless there is significant investment in the club, which at this point is unlikely.
Mauricio's move to Madrid would be his big break, and he would want to take Harry Kane along with him. Kane would solve their striker crisis, and take some pressure off Gareth Bale. No team in the world can afford to buy Kane and Hazard together. So that would keep Hazard at Chelsea.
Real Madrid are in the market for a new manager, and Chelsea will be actively tracking how they progress because it will have a direct impact on Eden Hazard's future. So Chelsea fans would hope that Real Madrid sign Antonio Conte!