What Can We Expect From Julen Lopetegui at Real Madrid4 min read
The Julen Lopetegui era is well underway at Real Madrid, and he’s quickly gone about making his mark.
Predecessor, Zinedine Zidane, very definitely had a first XI and a ‘Plan B,’ but the former Spanish national team coach had made it his business to ensure that the slate was wiped clean.
Everyone would be given a fair crack of the whip, as he looked for a more inclusive squad.
Dani Ceballos was the first recipient of this new way of working, given 70 minutes against Getafe on Sunday in Real’s first La Liga game of the campaign, to deliver his candidacy for more permanent employment in midfield.
What we saw from the youngster was a polished, upbeat and professional performance and one that’s done his chances no harm at all.
It should also encourage the other former ‘fringe’ players in the side, such as Marcos Llorente, Jesus Vallejo, Borja Mayoral and Nacho.
The latter was a surprise inclusion in place of World Cup winner, Raphael Varane, but didn’t put a foot wrong.
In fact, he did everything right and left many asking the question as to whether it should be him, rather than the Frenchman, that starts alongside Sergio Ramos.
There was a hint of a suggestion of Spanish bias, but that’s facetious at best because the fact is Lopetegui has a vision which differs greatly from Zidane’s and isn’t exclusive.
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What was noticeable in the Getafe game too was the freedom with which the attacking trio particularly went about their work.
Gareth Bale’s pace and incisiveness caused havoc, especially when he switched wings, with Marco Asensio’s creativity also to the fore.
Karim Benzema has to score goals this season to assuage the Bernabeu who consistently got on his case in the last campaign, but you sense that he too will be happy just to concentrate on hitting the back of the net.
He was never really a provider as such, more the one to feast, albeit 2017/18 was his famine.
Still, in something of a transitional phase, supporters shouldn’t expect miracles, but they should get right behind a man who is more than comfortable with the squad before him and knows how to deliver success.
After going unbeaten with the Spanish national team for two years, he deserves absolute respect if nothing else.
And let’s see just how many trophies are accrued by the end of the season before passing summary judgment.