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Lopetegui was sacked by Spain two days before World Cup and given Ronaldo puzzle


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Julen Lopetegui is no stranger to taking on big managerial tasks thanks to his roller coaster ride with Real Madrid.

The former Wolverhampton Wanderers boss will take over as West Ham manager next season, replacing the outgoing David Moyes and taking on his first job since his Molineux exit last August.


Lopetegui had a huge job on his hands when he arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018Credit: Getty

The Spaniard will have plenty of eyes watching to see how he fares at the London Stadium.

Despite his varying popularity with fans, Moyes leaves large boots to fill after guiding the Hammers to the Europa Conference League win in 2023 and being in charge for five years across two spells.

But this isn’t the first time the pressure has been on for Lopetegui in a managerial role.

Rewind to 2018 and the ex-Real Madrid and Barcelona goalkeeper was in charge of his country’s national team.

After two years in the job, Lopetegui had led Spain to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, winning nine and drawing one of their group matches.

But despite arriving in Russia with his team to prepare for the tournament, astonishingly, Lopetegui never made it to the dugout in the competition.

La Roja’s fans had high hopes their side could lift the trophy for the second time ever following their famous victory in 2010 – but just two days before the tournament, journalists and supporters were left stunned – and as were the Spanish FA.

Real Madrid and then-President of the Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales confirmed Lopetegui would be taking over as Los Blancos manager after Zinedine Zidane‘s recent exit.

Rubiales had only been appointed as president a month prior to Lopetegui's Real Madrid bombshell


Rubiales had only been appointed as president a month prior to Lopetegui’s Real Madrid bombshellCredit: AFP

Originally, it was stated he would take over at Real Madrid after the World Cup on a three-year deal, extinguishing initial worries of him not leading La Roja in Russia.

In reality, Lopetegui’s time as Spain manager was over just one day after the initial bombshell, with Rubiales confirming he was sacked on the eve of the tournament.

West Ham manager David Moyes delivers hilarious X-rated farewell to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp in press conference

He was replaced by Spain’s sporting director, Fernando Hierro. In the end, La Roja were left disappointed as they went on to lose 4-3 on penalties to hosts Russia in the last-16.

Meanwhile, with the world watching the man who had suddenly left his country in a precarious position before the biggest tournament in football, Lopetegui had jumped into a difficult job in Madrid.

Ronaldo ended his nine years at Real Madrid days after Lopetegui arrived


Ronaldo ended his nine years at Real Madrid days after Lopetegui arrivedCredit: Getty

He would also soon find out he was tasked with building the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era.

The Manchester United legend left Real for Juventus that summer, ending his nine years with Real that saw him become the club’s all-time top scorer with 450 goals.

Replacing Zidane – who won three Champions Leagues and one LaLiga title in his first managerial spell there – and filling a rather large Ronaldo-shaped hole were both huge asks for Lopetegui.

Karim Benzema stepping up to become Real’s goalscorer didn’t save him in the end, either.

His tenure began with a 4–2 loss to rivals Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

That made him the second Real manager to start his tenure by conceding four goals after ex-Southampton and Fulham full-back Michael Keeping did so in 1948.

A string of poor results followed, with a 5-1 loss to El Clasico foes Barcelona being the final nail in the coffin.

By October 29, Lopetegui was sacked and was replaced by Santiago Solari before Zidane returned in March.

Lopetegui was axed just four months into his tenure


Lopetegui was axed just four months into his tenureCredit: Getty

He was soon snapped up again, though.

Sevilla came calling the following June, with Lopetegui winning the Europa League the next campaign.

Then Wolves, who had been interested in him before he took the Spain job, brought him to Molineux in November 2022.

Now, one year on from his Wolves sacking, he’s returning to the Premier League with another new era to navigate.

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