The statements could not have been much different. The tone, the respect, the resolution. On Monday night Julen Lopetegui was sacked as Real Madrid head coach and the resulting statements from both parties just about summed up the way his five-month tenure unfolded.
While Madrid thanked the former Spain coach and his coaching staff for their work and effort, and wished him well for the future, they also dug the dagger in as if to shift the blame for the team’s current form from anywhere else wholly onto the coach.
“The board considers there to be a large disparity between the quality within the Real Madrid squad, which boasts eight nominees for the next Ballon d’Or award – an unprecedented number in the club’s history – and the team’s results to date,” read Madrid’s statement.
For Lopetegui to be given less than four months to instil his design on the team was bad enough, but to kick him about of the back door in such a fashion says more about Madrid than it does about Lopetegui.
While it’s right to assume Madrid would be doing much better right now – they currently sit ninth in LaLiga – to give a man less than four months to change a stale squad, a squad without a man who contributes 50 goals a season to the side, is madness. Let’s not forget that last season Madrid finished 17 points behind eventual winners Barcelona in the league table. Now they sit seven points behind.
Let’s also not forget that Madrid had ample time to boost a squad that was bound to need refreshing after winning three straight Champions League titles. The names of Neymar, Harry Kane and Kylian Mpabbe came and went, and instead of adding firepower and fresh legs in midfield to replace Cristiano Ronaldo and Mateo Kovacic respectively, Madrid went and splashed the cash on replacing Keylor Navas with Thibaut Courtois.
The players, too, have plenty to answer for. Isco was quoted as saying that if Lopetegui was to get sacked then the players should be sacked, too. While the buck can stop with the coach under these circumstances, the players too have to take responsibility. Let’s see how they respond when Santiago Solari takes temporary charge of the team for Saturday’s Liga match against Valladolid at the Bernabéu.
In stark contrast to Madrid’s harsh announcement, which made the front page of Marca, Lopetegui acted with calm and kind in thanking Madrid for the opportunity to coach the team.
While many won’t forgive him for accepting the Madrid job just days before the summer World Cup – another situation driven by Real Madrid – Lopetegui almost comes out of this looking the better of the two parties and we wish him all the best for the future.