On Tuesday, Real Madrid announced the appointment of current Spain manager Julen Lopetegui. The 51-year-old will join up with his new team after the World Cup, so where does the Spain national team go from here?
The unexpected announcement leaves question marks about who will replace Lopetegui after the World Cup. The Spaniard has been in charge for the past two years and has remained unbeaten so far, winning 14 of his 20 games and scoring 61 goals in the process. Lopetegui has a World Cup to focus on for now, with his side kicking off their tournament on Friday against rivals Portugal, followed by games against Iran and Morocco respectively.
So, who will take charge once Lopetegui joins up with the reigning European champions?
The man Lopetegui is replacing at Los Blancos, Zinedine Zidane, is an early candidate as the two men could swap jobs. Zidane left his role at Real Madrid in May and is understandably a wanted man but, in an event in Paris, told AS that he plans on taking a break from football.
“I’m taking a break and I don’t know what I’m going to do. The most important thing is the decision that I made; now we’ll see what happens after.”
Antonio Conte has managerial experience on the international stage after being in charge of his native Italy between 2014 and 2016. He is still under contract at Chelsea but is expected to leave the club imminently and could be a good fit for the Spain job.
A name that is forever linked with the Spain national team is Pep Guardiola. Currently at Premier League champions Manchester City, Guardiola, in an interview in 2017 when asked what national team he would want to manage, told Gary Linekar that he would like to take charge of his country’s team one day.
“Spain I think. I would like to be a manager in the World Cup, the European Cup [European Championships]. I would like to feel it.”
However, the Spaniard recently signed a two-year contract extension at Manchester City in May so the days of Pep Guardiola managing the Spain team are unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Lopetegui’s most likely replacement is current Spain U21 manager Albert Celades. It is common for national teams to promote managers through their own setup, as was the case with Lopetegui himself, although he managed Porto in between. Celades has been working with the U21s since 2014 and has a 60.87% win percentage, losing just 3 of his 23 games in charge.
The Spanish Football Federation are in no rush to find a new manager. Whoever takes over will have an extremely talented squad at their disposal, but for now Lopetegui will shift his focus on trying to make Spain world champions for the second time.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!