Who is Julen Lopetegui - the new manager of the Spanish national team?
Former Porto and Rayo Vallecano manager Julen Lopetegui has officially been named as Vicente Del Bosque’s successor to the Spain national team hot seat. The two-time European champion and FIFA 2010 World Cup winner stood down after Spain’s round-of-16 exit to Antonio Conte’s Italy in the Euro 2016. Now, the Spanish FA have named the u-19 and u-21 European winner with Spain as the head of the senior squad. But how did Julen Lopetegui go from Real Sociedad youth keeper to holding one of the biggest jobs in world football? We’re going to trace the career of the new headman of La Furia Roja!
Julen Lopetegui - the professional goalkeeper
Julen Lopetegui was born on the 28th of August 1966 in Asteasu, Gipuzkoa. He initially played as a goalkeeper for Real Sociedad, before his performances eventually led to Real Madrid signing him in 1985. He spent 3 years there, making over 60 appearances in the net for the Real Madrid Castilla before being loaned out to UD Las Palmas. His career grew there as he played 30 matches in the 1998/1999 season before returning to his parent club. However, he could win a spot in the starting XI and only played one senior match, a 3-3 draw at the home of the derby rivals Atletico Madrid - but they were already La Liga champions by then. By the time he was 25 he left the club in search of more minutes and he found them with CD Logrones. There, he became an integral part of the tough, punchy side’s fight to remain in the top tier of Spanish football. It led to him earning his first cap for Spain as a substitute for the legendary Zubizarreta as Spain lost in Valencia to Croatia in a friendly - although he was selected for the Italy 1994 World Cup.
That quickly made him popular with the other half of the El Clasico derby and Barcelona swooped for him. The following year, CD Logrones were relegated as the bottom club in the top-flight. For Lopetegui, it was time to win more silverware but in Blaugrana colours this time, picking up 2 more Supercopa medals (to add to his Real Madrid set), a Copa Del Rey and a first European trophy with the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup of 1996/1997. However, he only played 5 matches in his 3 years in Barcelona and left for Rayo Vallecano after that trophy. There he became a major player once again, making another 112 appearances before hanging up his boots in 2002.
Julen Lopetegui - the manager
Just one year later, he began his meteoric rise to the position he holds today as Spain’s supremo. Back in 2003 he was the assistant coach to the Spain U-17 squad, getting to know the players who would eventually go on to dominate world football. He swapped that position to manage former club Rayo Vallecano, but a dreadful start earned him the sack after just 10 matches as his team finished the season relegated. He took a hiatus from football, working as a commentator and pundit for 5 years before returning to Real Madrid’s B-team as a coach in 2008. His stint there led him right back to where he belongs - the Spanish national team. As the head coach of the U-19 squad, he triumphed in the UEFA European U-19 tournament in 2012, before repeating the trick with the U-21 side in their 2013 tournament. There, he guided youngsters like De Gea, Koke, Isco & Morata to glory.
After two European victories on the trot with Spain, Portuguese giants FC Porto called for him to join, and agreed in 2014. His time there was difficult, however, as he spent more than any Porto manager before him but was humiliated (6-1) by Bayern Munich. He also won nothing in 2 years, the longest trophy drought since Porto president Nuno da Costa took office - in 1982! He was sacked on the 8th January of the current year, remaining unemployed until now; he’s got the biggest job in Spain. The question now is - can he really make use of the infinite talent at his disposal and bring forth the next wave of La Furia Roja?
What he’s said...
“We're moderately satisfied.” - Lopetegui on FC Porto beating BATE Borisov 6-0 in the Champions League
“We can’t change the direction of the wind. What we can do is set the sails to take better advantage of the wind, make it so that the wind that there is pushes all of us.” - Lopetegui on doubts about his ability to coach FC Porto