Two days before the official start date of the 2018 World Cup, Real Madrid announced that Julen Lopetegui would be leaving his two-year position as manager of the Spanish national team for a three-year contract as head coach of Real Madrid. He intended to leave the Spanish national team after their World Cup effort, but was promptly fired by Spain following the announcement. Fernando Hierro replaced Lopetegui as manager of the national team.
The announcement struck some as strange timing, especially since he had signed a new contract with Spain less than a month ealier. According to The Independent, Real Madrid made the announcement prematurely in response to a rival’s intention to leak the news.
A Closer Look: Julen Lopetegui
Lopetegui coached the Spanish national team to 14 wins with six draws, leading them to the World Cup. (Spain is one of eight nations to have won the World Cup; their only win was in 2010.) Following the Real Madrid news, Spain released Lopetegui from his remaining two-year contract.
Lopetegui’s track record with Spanish youth teams and success as head coach of Spain led many to believe that he would be a promising hire for Real Madrid. Lopetegui is also highly respected by key senior players on the team, which should greatly aid him as manager. (In contrast, Rafael Benítez, Real Madrid’s manager from 2015-2016, struggled to manage players who did not respect him.)
Below, we’ll take a more in-depth look at Real Madrid’s performance since hiring Lopetegui in June.
Real Madrid’s La Liga Standings
So far in the 2018-19 La Liga season, Real Madrid’s standings include: 8 games played, 4 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses, a goal difference of +5 pts., and 14 total points. They are currently ranked fourth in the league. Sevilla FC is no. 1 (16 P), Barcelona is no. 2 (15 P), and Atlético Madrid (15 P) is ranked no. 3.
Real Madrid’s Top Scorers
Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale are the team’s top scorers. For the La Liga season, Benzema is currently ranked no. 1 with 4 goals scored, and Bale is no. 2 with 3 goals scored. Ranked no. 3 is Sergio Ramos, with 2 goals scored. Marco Asensio (no. 4), Dani Carvajal (no. 5), and Isco (no. 6) have each scored 1 goal for the team.
At the 2018 UEFA Super Cup, Lopetegui coached his first match of the season on Aug. 15 against Atlético Madrid. Real Madrid was in the lead 2-1 until the last 10 minutes of the game, when they lost 2-4. On Aug. 19 the 2018-19 La Liga season started. Real Madrid played against Getafe, winning 2-0. Real Madrid played against Girona on Aug. 26, winning 4-1.
On Sept. 1, Real Madrid beat Leganes 4-1. They followed this victory with their first draw of the season in a match against Athletic Bilbao, with a score of 1-1. For their first match of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid defeated AS Roma 3-0. In the remaining three matches of September, Real Madrid won 1-0 against Espanyol, but lost 0-3 against Sevilla FC, and had a draw of 0-0 against Atlético Madrid. Real Madrid’s match against Sevilla FC was their first loss of the La Liga season.
Real Madrid faced CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League on Oct. 2. CSKA Moscow defeated Real Madrid 1-0. On Oct. 6, Real Madrid faced Alavés. Alavés beat them 1-0, their first win against Real Madrid in 18 years.
To compare, Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid’s manager from 2016-2018, led a powerful team to 2 UEFA Champions League wins, 2 UEFA Super Cup wins, 2 FIFA Club World Cup wins, a La Liga title, and a Supercopa de España. Cristiano Ronaldo, who play for Real Madrid from 2009-2018, also departed before Lopetegui took over the team. Ronaldo is considered to be one of the greatest football players of all time.
Even with the loss of Ronaldo, the team is still facing one of the longest scoring droughts in more than 30 years. Thus, Real Madrid’s recent losses have been sparking doubts about Lopetegui as manager. Lopetegui attributed the recent losses to the injuries of key players Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, but promises that the team has been working hard and intends to win upcoming matches.