▶ In­terim man­ager and for­mer Real player re­fuses to rule him­self out of the run­ning to re­place sacked Lopetegui

The National - News - - SPORT - STEVE LUCK­INGS

San­ti­ago So­lari has re­fused to rule out turn­ing his tem­po­rary stint into a full-time role af­ter be­ing placed in charge of Real Madrid fol­low­ing Julen Lopetegui’s sack­ing on Mon­day.

The Ar­gen­tine, who en­joyed a suc­cess­ful play­ing ca­reer at the Bern­abeu at the start of the cen­tury, will lead Madrid in their match against third-tier Melilla in the Copa del Rey to­day.

So­lari has been pro­moted on an in­terim ba­sis from his role in charge of Real Madrid Castilla, the Span­ish gi­ant’s B team, for the first leg, last-32 en­counter on the tiny Span­ish city off the north coast of Africa.

Lopetegui was relieved of his du­ties af­ter Sun­day’s 5-1 de­feat to arch-ri­vals Barcelona in the first cla­sico of the sea­son.

Span­ish league rules mean the 42-year-old Ar­gen­tine can only man­age as an in­terim for two weeks.

His au­di­tion for the long-term role be­gins with the seem­ingly sim­ple task of dis­patch­ing Melilla, who sit sec­ond in Se­gunda Di­vi­sion B Group 4, and he re­fused to rule him­self out of the run­ning on the eve of the con­test.

“I’m go­ing to go into things very pos­i­tively,” So­lari said at his open­ing press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

“I will do ev­ery­thing I can. It’s a great op­por­tu­nity and it’s a great club. I don’t just say that now as coach of the first team. I’ve been here with other teams, I’ve played and sweated in the shirt of this club.

“Madrid is big­ger than all of us but it touches us all with its great­ness. I want to be a part of it.”

So­lari, who won two La Li­gas and one Uefa Cham­pi­ons League at Madrid from 200005, led train­ing yes­ter­day as spec­u­la­tion over who will be ap­pointed as Lopetegui’s per­ma­nent suc­ces­sor con­tin­ues.

The for­mer Spain man­ager lost his job af­ter a run of five de­feats in seven games, cul­mi­nat­ing in a 5-1 thrash­ing at the hands of La Liga lead­ers Barcelona at Camp Nou which leaves Madrid ninth in the table.

The likes of for­mer Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino have all been linked to the va­cancy, while talks to lure for­mer Ju­ven­tus and Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte to the Bern­abeu have stalled.

The Na­tional un­der­stands that Madrid’s pref­er­ence has switched to Roberto Martinez, the Spa­niard in charge of the Bel­gium na­tional team.

So­lari could yet land the post full-time, though, if the club de­cide to pro­mote from within their own coach­ing sys­tem.

Lopetegui suc­ceeded Zine­dine Zi­dane as Real Madrid man­ager – the for­mer France mid­fielder hav­ing also man­aged the club’s B team be­fore be­ing tak­ing over from Rafa Ben­itez in Jan­uary 2016.

Zi­dane left in the sum­mer af­ter win­ning three Uefa Cham­pi­ons League ti­tles in a row and So­lari is not ready to draw com­par­isons just yet.

“With re­spect to Zine­dine Zi­dane, he is one of the great­est things we have had at the club,” he said.

“All of the ad­jec­tives you can think of are not enough to de­scribe Zi­zou, he is very calm, a great coach and no­body can be com­pared to him.”

Af­ter tak­ing his first train­ing ses­sion, So­lari got the feel­ing he is about to start work­ing with a squad want­ing to set the record straight.

“They are a bit hurt,” he added. “They re­ally want to change things and turn things around, it is a group of hard work­ers and play­ers who have won a lot of things for this club.

“It is not the eas­i­est sit­u­a­tion but I saw them in a mood to turn things around and change things.”

Melilla will be mas­sive un­der­dogs head­ing into the round-of-32 clash but man­ager Luis Car­rion is tar­get­ing more up­set for the 19-time Copa del Rey win­ners.

“I do not want it to look ar­ro­gant but our goal is to fight to go through,” he said.

“The draw gave us Madrid and the goal is to beat them – we have to think big.

“We play against a bet­ter team but the idea is not go­ing to change.

“The harder the chal­lenge, the braver we must be. We do not have to be sui­ci­dal, but we have to be brave and try to get what we want to hap­pen on the pitch.”

Real Madrid’s in­terim man­ager San­ti­ago So­lari takes charge of his first first-team train­ing ses­sion ahead of a Copa del Rey tie against Span­ish third-tier out­fit Melilla tonight

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