Madrid,June 13 (TNS): Real Madrid have announced that Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui will become their new manager after the World Cup 2018.
Lopetegui only signed a new deal with the Spanish FA three weeks ago, to extend his stay with the national team until 2020.
However, he has now been confirmed as Zinedine Zidane’s replacement, after the Frenchman resigned after winning a third consecutive Champions League with the Bernabeu side with a 3-1 win over Liverpool last month.
In a brief statement on their website, Real Madrid said: “Real Madrid C. F. announces that Julen Lopetegui will be the coach of the first team during the next three seasons.
“Julen Lopetegui will join the club after Spain’s participation in the World Cup, after two years leading the national team.”
Reports from Spain suggested the unusual timing of the announcement, only days before the start of the World Cup, was a result of Lopetegui trying to not allow speculation during the tournament to distract from the national side’s progress.
Radio Marca claimed all six Real Madrid players in the Spain squads knew of the news but Lopetegui got worried after a non-Real player got wind of the news.
The 51-year-old joined Real as a player in 1988 and spent three seasons with the club, but only managed one appearance before returning to manage their Castilla team in the 2008-09 season.
He was hired as Vincente del Bosque’s replacement following Spain’s underwhelming Euro 2016 campaign despite being strongly linked with then-Championship side Wolves shortly before.
Lopetegui’s first port of call will be to discuss the futures of Real’s two biggest stars in Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, both of whom hinted at their desire to leave the club immediately after the Champions League final in Kiev.
While Ronaldo’s looks nothing more than his traditional end-of-season threat to leave while in search of an improved contract, Bale’s desire to move on seemed more genuine until Zidane announced his own departure. The Independent revealed last week that the Welshman would wait to see who was announced as Zidane’s replacement before making a final decision on his future, although that will likely have to wait until after Spain’s run in the World Cup ends, with Lopetegui not officially beginning his new role until after the tournament in Russia.
Manchester United remain the former Tottenham winger’s first choice so it will be down to Lopetegui to decide if he wants to keep him, and Bale to decide if his role in the team under the Spaniard is enough for him.