Julen Lopetegui – From World Cup to Nothing…

First of all let us just rewind the clock to June this year…

A feast of summer football is about to begin in Russia, the World Cup 2018 is upon us and the usual suspects are fancied to contest the latter stages of the biggest tournament in the game.

Spain, quite rightly – are tipped by many – due to their talent pool and their unbeaten run in qualification which saw them win all but one game, topping a group also containing Italy.

Having arrived in Russia for the tournament, it was announced that Lopetegui would take over as the Head Coach of Real Madrid on a three-year contract after the conclusion of Spain’s involvement at the World Cup.

The following day, he was dismissed from his job with the national team after the SFF stated it was unaware of the talks between one of its countries biggest clubs and Lopetegui.

Surprisingly Spain were eliminated by the host nation in the last 16, but this just left unanswered questions for the former Porto gaffer and a spotlight that turned out to be too bright in the dugout of the Santiago Bernabeu.

Fast forward just a matter of weeks and before the festive period is upon us – Julen Lopetegui has been dismissed as Manager of Real Madrid after a less than impressive, unacceptable start to life in the Spanish capital.

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Fair to say that the board didn’t hold back in their statement either “there is great disproportion between the quality of staff of Real Madrid”

Played 14 – Won 6 – Drawn 2 – Lost 6

To have lost as many as you have won whilst in charge of one of the world’s biggest clubs is cause for concern enough. However it is the manner of loss and against whom that has forced Florentino Perez to act accordingly.

UEFA Super Cup defeat to City rival Atletico followed by a stalemate against the same opponent in La Liga. A resounding 3-0 loss to Sevilla, back to back humiliations against Alaves and Levante with an unthinkable CSKA disaster in the UCL. Most recently, a 5-1 demolition at the hands of a Barcelona minus Messi was an embarrassment too far.

The 52-year-old will be “provisionally replaced” by ex-player Santiago Solari, coach of B team Castilla. But there is a twist that will need untangled and quickly…

Under Spanish regulations, an interim coach can be at the helm for a fortnight – but must be appointed officially after 15 days, or not at all.

Longer term, Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is widely expected to replace the former goalkeeper and become Real’s 3rd manager this calendar year.

Following the surprise resignation of treble Champions League winner Zidane was always going to be a tough ask, but to replace him without a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in your side is even harder.

Lopetegui’s overriding error was that he did not make moves to replace the talisman nor seek assurances around his future before accepting the position. You’d have to suggest that Zizou knew what was on the horizon.

With his reputation damaged by his recent decisions both on and off the pitch, it will take a sensational recovery if Lopetegui has aspirations to remain a high level coach.

A shocking 2018 can’t end soon enough for the Spaniard, what a miserable few months he’s had.

Julen Lopetegui image sourced from www.standard.co.uk

Ajax, PSV & Feyenoord – Doing their bit for the Dutch

A well-deserved round of applause for the Dutch sides that have taken the unprecedented step of sharing all European earnings made this season with the rest of the Eredivisie.

Ajax and PSV have made it to the group stages of the Champions League whereas Feyenoord came up short in the Europa League, having been knocked out in the qualifying round.

However, the disappointment of the men from Rotterdam is a mere blip compared to the gesture made.

The country’s three biggest clubs have agreed to give 10% of their earnings to the rest of the league, as a way of ensuring Dutch football doesn’t fall too far behind.

To give some perspective, Group stage qualification in the UCL is worth roughly £20m and Ajax currently sit top of their group having gained a well-earned draw with German giants Bayern Munich.

The intention? To improve the overall standard of Dutch football and aid the removal of plastic pitches.

As it stands an additional and unexpected £4m is about to be ploughed into the game in Holland and this will soften the blow of a newly proposed league structure to those unfortunate enough who will have to drop out of the top division.

A new structure will see the Eredivise drop from 18 sides to 16 with end of season play offs, with the future top division being separated much like the Belgian top tier.

The Belgian league system currently consists of 16 teams and at the end of the season the top 6 clubs qualify for a Championship play-off.

While places 7 to 15 qualify for Europa League play-off system and the bottom side gets relegated to the 2nd tier. However, any final changes are yet to be disclosed.

With the national side failing to reach Russia 2018 and Euro 2016, the agreement is also seen as a way to aid the nation and stop the slide.

Needless to say the recent 3-0 victory of Germany will have raised hopes once more.

All of the talk of single figure millions will sound like a drop in the ocean to any follower of and English Premier League side, but outside the bubble that Sky and BT provide – this is how football is for many leagues all over the continent.

Perhaps other countries could ask their regular European teams to forgo a small percentage of their added income to aid both club and country?

The media have labelled it all “the stronger the opponent, the stronger you will become,”

Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord have shown the way for others to follow.

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Image sourced from @caughtoffside‘s Twitter page

Jadon Sancho – A BIG future

This week saw the unexpected yet deserved inclusion of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho into Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the upcoming Uefa Nations League games against Spain and Croatia. With him being a relative unknown to many, it’s worth profiling this exciting attacking talent and detailing why he is in the Bundesliga and not the EPL.

Sancho, at the age of 17, made the brave decision to leave Premier League title favourites Manchester City last summer.

The Cityzens had offered fresh terms and had planned to take him on their pre-season tour of the USA in order to provide him with some game time.

Like many an Englishman before him Sancho decided that his future lay elsewhere after becoming worried that his 1st team involvement would be limited at The Etihad.

The soon-to-be England international joined City from Watford at the age of 14 and played regularly in 2016-17 in the under-18 league and the Uefa Youth League – as well as seven appearances in the Premier League 2, England’s reserve league.

On deadline day in August 2017 the surprise move to Borussia Dortmund came about.

Sancho was instantly given the squad number of 7, left vacant by Ousmane Dembele’s switch to Barcelona. The transfer fee a reported £8m.

The teenager was called up to the England Under-17 World Cup squad in October 2017, although Dortmund were reluctant to allow him to leave to represent his country at this level.

Sancho scored three goals in three group games – but was then recalled by the German club before the knockout stages on the understanding from all parties, including the FA that Sancho was about to be unleashed in the yellow and black.

Sancho duly made his Dortmund debut days later, as a late substitute against Eintracht Frankfurt, and also featured against Bayern Munich two weeks later.

England deservedly went on to win the Under-17 World Cup, with Sancho getting a winner’s medal.

He ended the season with one goal and four assists from 12 Bundesliga games, including seven starts.

The International Champions Cup competition, the new pre-season friendly threw together Sancho and City.

The winger impressed with his quick feet and ability to take men on as the Bundesliga side beat the Premier League champions 1-0 and this set him up for this current season firmly in manager Lucien Favre’s plans.

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He has had a brilliant start to the 2018-19 season and has set up more goals than any player in the Bundesliga, the Londoner has set up six league goals in as many appearances.

Sancho has also added his name to a scoresheet with a strike in a 7-0 demolition of Nuremberg recently.

He has started both Champions League games this season.

He has set up a total of eight goals, including one in the German Cup against lower league Greuther Furth.

Rumour also has it, that he has had his wrist slapped for continuously nutmegging his team mates in training, perhaps the exuberance of youth but experience will teach behaviours.

Perhaps most importantly his form has been rewarded with a contract extension seeing him put pen to paper on a deal until 2022.

He could well be the future of the English national side and Man City’s loss could be a nation’s gain.

Image sourced from; www.fourfourtwo.com