JL

How Julen Lopetegui turned it around in Seville after being dismissed by Spain and Real Madrid 3 years ago.

Julen Lopetegui the boss finds himself in one of the tightest La Liga title races in recent memory. For a man discarded by both national team and 3 years ago, it’s quite a turnaround. A man who arrived in Sevilla with his reputation bruised, he has done remarkably well.

Lopetegui turned the Andalusians from underdogs to regular contenders for titles. This was made evident by their never say never attitude in the league title race and their run to the Copa del Rey finals. His man-management was fantastic along with in-game tactics and the ability to utilize his squad. He also lifted the Europa League with them in the previous season.

 

He was regarded as one of the best Spanish coaches in 2018. The unfortunate year really hurt his credentials. Lopetegui showed a lot of character and maintained a positive attitude to turn it around and re-emerge as one of the best again.

 

THE MANAGER PROFILE

Julen Lopetegui was a goalkeeper in his playing days. His career began at the famed Castilla and he went on to represent a host of Spanish clubs including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano. Spain also capped him one time as he was a part of the 1994 world cup squad.

He started his coaching career in 2003 with his former club Rayo Vallecano. After a poor start to the season, he was sacked. A sabbatical followed that spell where he took up commentary. A return to coaching followed when he worked with his first club RM Castilla now in the 3rd division.

A real breakthrough was made in 2010 when he took up the coaching job for Spanish Youth teams. Lopetegui won the 2012 U-19 European Championship and 2013 U-21 Championship. During that time he coached potential superstars like Saul Niguez, Thiago Alcantara, Alvaro Morata and Isco. Upon the expiry of his contract in 2014 he moved from Spain.

 

 

Porto was chosen as his next destination to raise to fame. In his first season in Portugal, Porto almost won the league only to be edged by a stern Benfica side. Lopetegui’s squad comprising of stars like Danilo, Alex Sandro, Casemiro was raided in the next season and the squad weakened. Subsequently, their performances dropped and Lopetegui moved on from the club.

A chance of a lifetime presented itself when he was offered the chance to coach the Spanish national team following Vicente del Bosque’s retirement. Lopetegui made a sensational start to life as the Spanish coach. he guided them to the 2018 World cup unbeaten through the qualifiers. They entered the tournament as favorites but what followed was heartbreaking for the coach.

 

FATEFUL FEW MONTHS

was shocked with Zinedine Zidane’s decision to leave Real Madrid after doing the three-peat in the Champions league in 2018. Speculations began on his replacement. Many contenders were considered but Lopetegui was chosen secretly.

By that time the Spanish squad was already in Russia preparing for their World Cup opener. The Spanish football federation learnt just five minutes before the official announcement from Madrid that Lopetegui was leaving them for the Madrid job after the World Cup. Enraged by this, they immediately fired Lopetegui from the coach position as Fernando Hierro took over as interim manager.

 

 

What was supposed to be the biggest tournament of his life never materialized for Lopetegui. He had hoped to have a better stay in the Spanish capital at least. He had no idea that it was going to turn into a disaster.

Managing a Cristiano Ronaldo less Madrid that too after the Legendary Zidane was always going to be a tough task. Ronaldo’s replacement Mariano Diaz failed to live up to the expectations as the Madrid side crumbled in the early stages of the 2018/19 season. A 5-1 thrashing in the El Clasico by Barcelona left the Los Blancos languishing 9th in the table after 10 matches. Lopetegui was axed following the game.

 

 

Sacked by the two teams that he hoped win over the most in a matter of 5 months, Julen Lopetegui was at the rock bottom of his coaching career.

 

SALVATION IN SEVILLE

Sevilla president Jose Castro Carmona believed Lopetegui still had something to prove as he offered him the chance to manage his side in 2019. He was roped in as manager alongside the return of Mochi as sporting director. Together, they changed the transfer policy at the club as they wanted to improve the club on their 6th placed finish a season earlier.

18 players arrived and 32 players left as the squad was chopped and tripped to prepare for the season. They signed Jules Kounde, a young French center-back who formed a rock-solid partnership at the back with Brazilian Diego Carlos. Left-back Sergio Reguilon was brought on loan from Real Madrid. Ever-present captain Jesus Navas completed the backline. Midfield comprised the like of Joan Jordan, Oliver Torres, Ever Banega, Fernando who were massively improved. Wingers Suso and Lucas Ocampos were having breakthrough campaigns. Luuk de Jong and Youssef En-Nesyri were able finishers.

 

 

Lopetegui implemented a perfect 4-3-3 formation with a tight defence, a pressing midfield and a quick forward line to hit on the break. These changes ensured the Los Nervionenses got a top 4 finish in the league. They went onto lift the Europa League at the end of the season beating Inter Milan in the finals. Finally, Lopetegui delivered in just his first season in Seville.

The start of this season saw them lose the services of Reguilon and Ever Banega. Ivan Rakitic was brought to fill the midfield void left by Banega. Fast forward this season, Sevilla find themselves in the thick of the title race. After having a sensational start to the league they maintained consistency through the season. As a result, they sit 4th in the league and only 6 points behind the league leader Atletico Madrid with 4 games to go. Though they might be trophyless this season, the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan outfit are going in the right direction.

 

 

For a man condemned brutally two years ago, Lopetegui has redeemed himself wonderfully and attained salvation in Sevilla and reclaimed himself as one of Spain’s best.

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