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Real Madrid sack Lopetegui, name Solari as interim coach

By Reuters - Oct 31,2018 - Last updated at Oct 31,2018

Temporary coach of Real Madrid CF, Argentinian former player Santiago Solari (left) and Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos attend a training session at the Ciudad Real Madrid training facilities in Madrid’s suburb of Valdebebas on Tuesday (AFP photo by Gabriel Bouys)

MADRID — Real Madrid sacked coach Julen Lopetegui three months into his first season in charge after the Spanish giants were beaten by arch rivals Barcelona over the weekend, the European champions said on Monday.

Real have failed to win in La Liga since beating Espanyol on September 22, losing to Sevilla, Alaves, Levante and drawing with Atletico Madrid before Sunday’s 5-1 thrashing by Barcelona.

Former player and reserve team boss Santiago Solari has been put in caretaker charge after negotiations between the club and former Chelsea, Italy and Juventus boss Antonio Conte broke down on Monday, the club added.

Negotiations stalled with Conte, citing the dressing-room’s reluctance to accept the Italian as the main reason.

Conte is famed for his direct management style and eyebrows were raised on Sunday when Real captain Sergio Ramos suggested after the Barcelona game that the players would not welcome him.

“Respect is earned, not imposed,” Ramos told reporters who quizzed him on the potential arrival of the former Juventus, Italy and Chelsea manager.

Reports said Santiago Solari, the former Real player and current reserve team manager, will be put in temporary charge of the first team by President Florentino Perez and will sit in the dugout for Wednesday’s Copa del Rey clash with Melilla.

“The Real Madrid board met today and decided to renounce coach Julen Lopetegui’s contract with the club,” the club said in a statement.

“The board feels there has been a disproportionate difference between the squad Real Madrid possesses… and the results obtained until now.”

Lopetegui has now lost two jobs in under five months, as he was also fired by the Spanish Football Federation as coach of the national team the day before the World Cup started in June for announcing his move to Real behind the organisation’s back, throwing Spain’s tournament preparations into chaos.

The 52-year-old replaced Zinedine Zidane as Real coach after the Frenchman decided to step down from the role having guided the club to three successive Champions League titles in May.

After the club’s all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo also departed for Juventus in July, Lopetegui’s stint at Real got off to a difficult start as they were beaten 4-2 by city rivals Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

His side then won four of their opening five La Liga games and a 3-0 win over AS Roma in their Champions League opener.

But things started to fall apart when they were thrashed 3-0 by Sevilla last month, a result that started a run of four defeats in five matches in all competitions. During that stint, they also failed to score a goal for eight hours.

Last Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League provided a brief respite but the team were still booed off the pitch after an unconvincing display.

Sunday’s 5-1 hammering proved to be the final straw for Real president Florentino Perez.

During his 10 La Liga games in charge, Lopetegui won four, drew two and lost four, leaving Real floundering in ninth place in the table.

Spanish Federation rules allow clubs 14 days to name a permanent successor, meaning that Argentine Solari, who played for Real between 2000 and 2005, could potentially be in charge of four first team games.

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