Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Leeds United Identify Ex Real Madrid Manager As Replacement For Bielsa When He Leaves: What Can He Bring To The Table?

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Jack O’Brien
A 22 y/o football nerd seeking my way into football writing. I love Irish football and also the Premier League. A huge Arsenal fan! Aside from writing, I like to spend my time fishing and drinking beer.

According to The Sun, Leeds United have expressed interest in Julen Lopetegui. The Sevilla manager is reportedly topping the charts in the club’s bid to finding a replacement for Marcelo Bielsa.

The Argentine tactician has recently been nominated for Best FIFA Men’s Coach Award, and with his contract expiring at the end of the season, Leeds need to be ready. The Whites have set their sights on Lopetegui as they look to continue the club’s progress that started under Bielsa in case the iconic Argentine leaves earlier than expected.

Julen Lopetegui’s Career So Far

A native of the famed Basque county in Spain, Lopetegui initially broke into the European managerial scene with his stint at FC Porto from 2014 to 2016, during which he amassed a point per game tally of 2.24. It was followed by an equally impressive stint with the Spanish national team before he was hired as the desired replacement for Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid in 2018.

Unfortunately, Lopetegui had a difficult time at Santiago Bernabeu, failing to continue the legacy left behind by Zidane with three back to back Champions League titles. He was eventually sacked in October due to an awful start to the campaign and was replaced by Santiago Solari.

While his sacking at Real Madrid looked like the beginning of a downfall for Lopetegui’s career, the 54-year-old has enjoyed a swift revival following his appointment at Sevilla last summer.

Lopetegui notably won the UEFA Europa League in his debut campaign with Sevilla while also helping the Spanish giants finish in the top four. His team have been in great touch this season as well, keeping up with the likes of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad in the league table.

Leeds United have expressed interest in Julen Lopetegui - He has found his meet at Sevilla.
Sevilla’s head coach Julen Lopetegui gestures during the UEFA Champions League Group E second-leg football match between FK Krasnodar and Sevilla FC at the Krasnodar Stadium in Krasnodar on November 24, 2020. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP via Getty Images)

Is Lopetegui An Ideal Fit For Leeds United?

Lopetegui is a coach who likes his team to play with the possession. It is what made Spain such a huge success and the method could work at Leeds United as well, given how much possession the Whites have enjoyed under Marcelo Bielsa.

Another key feature in the Spaniard’s style of football is the efficient use of fullbacks. It is something that has been prevalent at Elland Road as well, with the likes of Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas making a massive impact, not only in the Championship but also in the Premier League this season.

There is no question that Leeds United will find it difficult to transition from Bielsa’s heavy metal style of football to a more composed, slower-paced and disciplined philosophy of Lopetegui. But in Kalvin Phillips, Raphinha and Mateusz Klich, the ex-Real Madrid boss has the ideal set of players that can thrive under his tactical setup.

However, it is fair to point out that the arrival of Lopetegui won’t guarantee survival or success for the Yorkshire outfit. His possession-based style of play could fail miserably, and with no athleticism, work-ethic and pace to make up for it, the Whites could even emerge as the worst-performing team in the division. Yes, that is the worst-case scenario, but still, this needs to be said.

So Leeds United’s priority at the moment should be to keep hold of Bielsa for as long as they can. The Argentine stands for everything good that has happened to the club over the past couple of years, and it’s imperative that he remains at the helm beyond next summer.

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