Real Madrid have sacked Julen Lopetegui as their head coach following their 5-1 humiliation at Barcelona, sparking immediate speculation that the club will launch a fresh bid to lure Maurico Pochettino to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Talks have been held with Antonio Conte as Lopetegui’s long-term replacement but the chances of him arriving have reportedly been hampered by the Italian’s legal dispute to settle with his former club Chelsea.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has also been linked with the job, but president Florentino Perez would prefer the Tottenham manager as an eventual solution.
Lopetegui’s sacking comes in the same week that Pochettino said he has reached his lowest point in nearly five years as Tottenham Hotspur manager. Santiago Solari, the manager of Madrid’s B team, has been installed in temporary charge of the first team for at least a month.
Lopetegui was presented as Real Madrid’s new manager on June 14 after Spain sacked him on the eve of the World Cup because they were unhappy at the way he had negotiated the move while under contract with the national side. He was in tears as he described it as the “happiest day” of his life when presented at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he lasted just 14 games, winning six matches. The 52-year-old leaves with the team in ninth place in La Liga.
Conte has won the league in Italy and England but his confrontational style caused problems with Diego Costa and with Eden Hazard who grew tired of being played out of position and then being accused of a lack of commitment. He is reportedly not the choice of the current Madrid players, with captain Sergio Ramos saying: “Respect needs to be earned not imposed.”
Pochettino, meanwhile, said this week that he is unhappy that continued stadium delays have left Spurs at a disadvantage, compared to the rest of England’s top six. He has also had to put up with a difficult few months in which there were no summer signings and several players returned from World Cup duty fatigued.
However, last week Pochettino brushed aside latest speculation Real are planning a move for him. “I don’t have social media so I don’t receive much information,” he said on Friday. “That’s why my head, my face, I look younger than I am.”