Spain manager Julen Lopetegui is to take over Real Madrid after the 2018 World Cup, the club have confirmed.
Following the shock resignation of manager Zinedine Zidane at the end of May, Real had been heavily linked with a number of potential managerial appointments.
On Monday Spain’s top selling sports newspaper Marca ran a story that claimed Mauricio Pochettino was still Real Madrid’s preferred option, with a number of others in the running including Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and former Spurs and Porto manager Andre Villas-Boas. Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea’s Antonio Conte were also in the frame.
Lopetegui had previously managed Porto for two years before taking up the position in charge of the national team for the past two years and last month signed a contract extension to remain as Spain coach until until 2020.
However the call of Madrid must have proved too strong and he has now signed at the Bernabéu, the timing of the announcement unexpected as Spain kick off their tournament on Friday.
A short club statement said: “Julen Lopetegui will be Real Madrid’s coach following the celebration of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“Real Madrid can confirm that Julen Lopetegui will be the first team coach for the next three seasons.
“Julen Lopetegui will join the club following Spain’s participation in the World Cup after leading the national side for the last two years.”
Marca published: “That it was not the ideal moment is evident … but it is also true that circumstances have determined this outcome.”
They added: “It is clear that the arrival of coach Julen to Madrid has not been done at the most opportune time for the national team.
“But with the professionalism and commitment of all, the squad should not be affected. Surely it is like that.”
The 51-year-old took up coaching in 2003 as assistant manager to Spain’s Under-17 team. He managed Spain at Under-19, Under-20 and Under-21 level before moving to Porto.