On Thursday, the Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF), named Julen Lopetegui as Vicente Del Bosque’s successor. His first official game in charge will be the World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein on 5 September.
Who is Julen Lopetegui?
— Selección Española (@SeFutbol) July 21, 2016
Julen Lopetegui may not be a name instantly recognisable to many outside of Spain or Portugal. He had low profile career as a goalkeeper during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Lopetegui gained many of his 317 league appearances playing for CD Logroñés and Rayo Vallecano. He also spent time at Spanish superpowers Real Madrid and Barcelona during his career, but was unable to command a regular spot in the line-up, making a combined total of just six appearances.
Upon retiring at Rayo Vallecano in 2002, Lopetegui took up a career in coaching. He initially worked for the Spanish Federation as an assistant with their U17’s age group. This resulted in an opportunity to move into club management in 2003 with ex-club Rayo. His first manager position was short lived however, as Lopetegui was sacked just ten games into the league season. This was due to a poor start to the campaign.
Following his time with Rayo, Lopetegui decided to take a career break from management and took up a commentary position with La Sexta, a popular broadcasting station in Spain. A return to coaching came calling five years later via one of his previous clubs, Real Madrid Castilla.
Another move from Real Madrid to the RFEF occurred in 2010. Lopetegui moved full circle as he returned to training players within the national youth set up. It is here he gained a wider reputation as a coach, first leading the Spanish u19 squad to a European championship victory in 2012. This was followed up with another victory in the u21 category. That squad featured now household names David De Gea, Thiago Alcantara, Koke, Isco and Alvaro Morata.
Six days after the expiration of his contract with the Spanish FA in 2014, Lopetegui was named manager of Portuguese giants FC Porto, where he remained in charge until January 2016.
National Team Manager
Lopetegui’s first task as national team manager is to prepare his charges for the upcoming World Cup qualification for 2018. The heat will be on to continue the success delivered by predecessor’s Luis Aragones as well as the legendary Del Bosque. Having spent the majority of his playing and coaching career outside of the spotlight; this job will require all of his collective experience to get the most out a very talented group of players used to success.