San­ti­ago So­lari con­fi­dent of tak­ing Real Madrid to the top

The Manica Post - - Sport / Foreign News -

MADRID — In just months, Julen Lopetegui has lost two of the most high-pro­file coach­ing jobs in the world.

Lopetegui was fi­nally fired by Real Madrid on Mon­day, less than five months af­ter he was sacked by Spain be­fore the World Cup for not telling fed­er­a­tion of­fi­cials he ac­cepted the Madrid job.

The lat­est fir­ing fol­lowed a meet­ing by the club’s board of direc­tors on Mon­day, a day af­ter the team was crushed by Barcelona 5-1 at Camp Nou Sta­dium.

San­ti­ago So­lari, coach of Real Madrid B, will take charge for the Copa del Rey match against third-di­vi­sion club Melilla on Wed­nes­day. Span­ish me­dia spec­u­lated So­lari, a for­mer Madrid player, was in the run­ning for the per­ma­nent job along with for­mer Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte and Bel­gium man­ager Roberto Martinez.

The fir­ing caps a hor­ri­ble few months for Lopetegui and is likely to deal a sig­nif­i­cant set­back to his ca­reer.

Af­ter do­ing well with Spain’s youth teams, he had a lack­lus­ter stint with Por­tuguese club Porto, but gained promi­nence af­ter re­vamp­ing Spain and turn­ing it into a con­tender en­ter­ing the World Cup.

“I want to thank the club for the op­por­tu­nity it gave me and the play­ers for their ef­fort,” Lopetegui told the lo­cal news agency EFE.

“I wish the team the best for the rest of the sea­son.”

Madrid said in a state­ment it sacked 52-year-old Lopetegui to “change the team’s dy­namic while all of its ob­jec­tives for the sea­son were still reach­able.”

The board of direc­tors be­lieved there was a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween the qual­ity of the squad and the re­sults it was achiev­ing.

The board noted the team has eight play­ers nom­i­nated for the Bal­lon d’Or award, some­thing un­prece­dented in the club’s his­tory.

They have lost five of their last seven matches.

“We know that re­sults are im­por­tant for a coach,” Madrid cap­tain Ser­gio Ramos said af­ter the Barcelona match.

“We know that re­sults are im­por­tant for a coach,” Madrid cap­tain Ser­gio Ramos said af­ter the Barcelona match.

Lopetegui, who led the team prac­tice on Mon­day morn­ing, was hired by Madrid to re­place Zine­dine Zi­dane, who quit af­ter lead­ing the club to the last three Cham­pi­ons League ti­tles.

Los­ing the cla­sico left Madrid ninth in the Span­ish league, seven points be­hind leader Barcelona af­ter 10 rounds.

It hasn’t won in five straight league matches, with four losses, and re­cently reached its worst scor­ing drought ever.

The club had a de­cent start to the sea­son but things went sour as the squad strug­gled to produce goals in its first sea­son with­out Cris­tiano Ron­aldo in nearly a decade.

Madrid didn’t re­place the su­per­star; its only high-pro­file sign­ing was goal­keeper Thibaut Cour­tois.

In 14 matches with Lopetegui, Madrid won six, lost six, and drew two.

Af­ter the Copa match on Wed­nes­day, Madrid hosts Val­ladolid in the Span­ish league, and vis­its Vik­to­ria Plzen in the Cham­pi­ons League.

“We have to move on as soon as pos­si­ble be­cause there is a lot of sea­son left,” Ramos said.

To make things worse, vet­eran left back Marcelo is ex­pected to be out for a few weeks be­cause of a mus­cle in­jury. For­ward Mar­i­ano Diaz is also in­jured and is likely to be out for at least a week.

So­lari, aged 42, is a for­mer Ar­gentina mid­fielder who played for Real Madrid in the early 2000s and helped the team win the 2002 Cham­pi­ons League.

He also played for Atletico Madrid and In­ter Mi­lan.

He has been coach­ing Real Madrid B since 2016, tak­ing over not long af­ter Zi­dane left to coach the main squad.

Lopetegui is the sec­ond La Liga coach to be fired.

The first was Leo Franco of pro­moted club Huesca, cur­rently last in the 20-team stand­ings.

San­ti­ago So­lari

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