It was a truly bizarre period, one for FIFA World Cup folklore for the coming years.
Meanwhile, Julen Lopetegui is finally rebuilding his standing as one of Spain’s finest coaches at third-placed Sevilla.

Having managed Spain’s youth teams and Porto. Lopetegui enjoyed a two-year spell as the Spanish national team boss, where he won 14 and lost none of his 20 matches in charge as they qualified for the 2018 World Cup. 

The trainer would, however, be announced as Real Madrid’s new manager on the eve of the World Cup. A move seen by the Spanish FA as disrespectful as Lopetegui was astonishingly sacked two days to Spain’s opening game against Portugal.

A short stint then followed at the Bernabéu where they struggled for goals and let too many in at the other end. 

Unable to call upon the talismanic contribution of Cristiano Ronaldo, who had left before Lopetegui arrived that summer, Madrid lacked inspiration and a cutting edge.

A 43% win rate is unheard of at a club like Madrid as a 5-1 loss away to Barcelona in El Clásico spelled the end of the road, being replaced by Santiago Solari. Real Madrid would, however, make a second managerial change in a tumultuous season with the return of Zinedine Zidane. 

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Having had, and lost, two of Spanish football’s biggest jobs within six months. Lopetegui is well on the path to redemption with Sevilla, a year on from licking his wounded reputation.

With Barcelona and Real Madrid expectedly jostling for the league title until the league was suspended due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Sevilla lead the rest of the chasing pack. Two points separating the rest of the top six comprising Real Sociedad, Getafe, and Atlético Madrid.

Lopetegui celebrating an important derby win over Real Betis. (Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images)

Lopetegui has implemented his possession style of attacking football at Seville despite many limitations, they have the third-highest average possession in the league (55.7%) behind the top two.

They like to attack through the wings and base their attacks on a foundation of attacking fullbacks. The pair of Sevilla legend and captain Jesús Navas, and Madrid loanee Sergio Reguilón have weighed in with four assists each.

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Whilst Lopetegui and sporting director Monchi oversaw a dramatic squad overhaul that saw 13 arrivals and 15 departures over the summer. Lucas Ocampos has been the most impressive of the newbies, the Argentine leading the scoring charts with 10 league goals 
Lucas Ocampos after netting the equalizer against Atleti. (Getty Images)

Despite being the lowest scorers in the top four, Los Nervionenses have developed a knack of taking the lead and managing games as their band of new attackers settle into the team.

Sevilla have directly capitalized on sixth-placed Atletico’s wobble this season and denied Los Rojiblancos a chance to go past them in a 2-2 draw days before the league’s suspension.

For a side who finished sixth last season, Lopetegui has Sevilla on an upward curve despite his failures and misfortunes at the very top of Spanish football. The 53-year-old is leading the gatecrash of La Liga’s top three, only nine points behind the title chasers.

Lopetegui picked the right job motivation, the perfect redemption project.
Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin
March 28, 2020
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Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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