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Real Madrid’s Next Manager: Who Will Replace Julen Lopetegui?

Julen Lopetegui probably made the worst managerial move since Brian Clough headed up the M1 to take charge of Leeds when he accepted the Real Madrid job.

Sacked as manager of Spain the day before the World Cup started when news of his appointment broke, Lopetegui lasted just 149 days at Real Madrid with a 5-1 defeat against Barcelona in El Clasico proving the final straw.

Real Madrid sit ninth in La Liga and have won just 14 out of a possible 30 points. They have conceded the same number of goals as they have scored and sit only six points above the Spanish top flight’s relegation places, and seven behind leaders Barcelona.

Lopetegui will argue that expectations should have been tempered by the lack of a top-class replacement of Cristiano Ronaldo and he should have been give the time to rebuild the team.

However, time is the one commodity most Madrid managers are never allowed, with trigger-happy president Florentino Perez now on the hunt for his eighth manager in ten years.

With that in mind, let’s take a look from a betting perspective at the men in contention for Europe’s tob job. It’s worth bearing in mind that different bookmakers have different rules for settling the market, so check the terms and conditions before placing your bet.

Former star players

Santiago Solari 

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Having been named as temporary manager, Solari is in pole position to get the job on a longer basis and his path to the job is strikingly similar to Zinedine Zidane. Both men played for the club in the early 2000s and were in charge of Castilla, Real Madrid’s reserve team, when a mid-season managerial crisis occurred. However, Solari has never been hero-worshipped at Real in the way Zidane was. Suspicion is that Perez will want a bigger name.

Raul 

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Legendary striker Raul scored 228 goals for Real Madrid and is the club’s second highest goalscorer. He won six La Liga titles and three Champions League titles. He is revered by the club’s fans and has made no secret of his desire to manage the club. He completed his coaching badges this summer and is now working with one of Real Madrid’s youth teams. He is almost certain to get the chance to manage the team at some point in the future but this may come too soon.

Guti 

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Attacking midfielder Guti played 387 times for the club and is further along the road to management than Raul. He was appointed assistant manager at Besiktas in the summer and will soon be ready to make the step up to manager. Speaking to ESPN in 2017, Guti said: “It would be stupid on my part not to say that to be able to coach the Real Madrid first team is a personal objective.”

Returning Hero

Jose Mourinho

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He may not be respected by the board at Manchester United but there have been plenty of rumours that Perez wants Mourinho back in charge. Ramon Calderon, a former Real Madrid president, said this week: “If this president is with the team for a few years, and I think he will be, Mourinho will be here. No doubt. It’s the only coach the president has respected.”

Mourinho, crucially, also has the respect of his former players. However, a reported move for Eden Hazard would have to be shelved if ‘the special one’ returned.

Out of work

Arsene Wenger 

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Keen to get the anorak back on and return to coaching, Wenger reportedly rebuffed Real Madrid’s advances at least once during his glory years at Arsenal. His unwillingness to criticise players will go down well with the dressing room and his approach to attacking football will be a hit with fans. Aged 69, though, his time at the top may have come and gone.

Antonio Conte

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The Italian has a superb track record of winning titles and is probably the best manager on this list. He was favourite to get the job during the final days of Lopetegui’s reign but has drifted in the past few days. His confrontational approach with players and his strict training regime has reportedly not found favour with influential members of the dressing room such as Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, while his relationship with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois deteriorated rapidly at Chelsea. It seems player power will prevent him for being offered the role.

Roberto Martinez 

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At first glance, you would think that being Spanish would increase Martinez’s chances of landing the job. However, a look at the Spanish managers appointed by Real Madrid recently makes grim reading. Six Spaniards, including Juande Ramos, Jose Antonia Camacho, Rafa Benitez and Lopetegui have been appointed to the top job since 2004 and just one lasted longer than a year. One thing Martinez has going for him is his commitment to attacking football and his appointment would almost guarantee a short-term boost to results and morale. Long-term it could be a different story.

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