It’s all change at Real Madrid this season as they embark on the 2018/19 La Liga season with a new man at the managerial helm. After three successive Champions League trophies to his name, Zinedine Zidane shocked the world when he stood down as manager of Los Blancos earlier this summer.
It was felt that he had reached the end of his cycle at the Santiago Bernabeu and that he could not push the talented group of players that he had at his disposal any further. His departure led to a whole host of top names being linked with the vacant position in the Spanish capital.
Managers such as Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino and Germany coach Joachim Low were hotly linked with the position, while Antonio Conte, who found himself out of work after his tenure at Premier League side Chelsea came to a close, was someone who was also reportedly considered.
Therefore, it came as something of a surprise when the then Spain manager Julen Lopetegui was announced as the man who was to step into the shoes that former incumbent Zidane had left behind. His appointment has a lot of people asking if he’s the right man for the job.
His stint as manager of the Spanish national side came to an embarrassing end as his appointment as the new man in charge of Real Madrid caught his then employers, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), somewhat short.
Lopetegui’s intention was to take the Real reins once Spain’s involvement in the FIFA World Cup came to a close. However, so perturbed were the RFEF that they informed that his services were not even required during their trip to Russia.
So, the former FC Porto boss now embarks on arguably the biggest challenge in the sport and he does so without the iconic Cristiano Ronaldo. The sensation of Portuguese football finally called time on his period in the Spanish capital as he linked up with Italian giants Juventus for a fee of nearly £100m.
The departure of Ronaldo will have undoubtedly hampered Real Madrid’s hopes of winning this season’s Spanish title. This is a point reinforced when you look at the current La Liga betting markets, as they find themselves second favourites behind Barcelona at 15/8.
You could well argue that they failed to replace arguably the greatest ever player to represent the club. In fairness to them, it is a task which is almost impossible. At the same time, though, the lack of marquee signings during the transfer window must be something of a surprise.
Attempts to sign the likes of Kylian Mbappe from PSG or Eden Hazard from Chelsea were ultimately fruitless, with arguably their biggest signing of the close season coming at the other end of the pitch in the shape of Hazard’s former teammate Thibault Courtois.
This means the task to replace Ronaldo falls to Gareth Bale who may now finally be able to step into the limelight. His time at Real Madrid, although incredibly successful, has perhaps been stop-start due to injuries. With centre stage now firmly his, he will be looking to lead this great club to even further success both at home and abroad.