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After crushing 5-1 defeat to Barça, Real Madrid set to replace manager

Julen Lopetegui, who joined the team amid huge controversy in the summer, likely to make way for former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte during his time at Chelsea. EFE

Real Madrid soccer club made a first formal offer to Antonio Conte on Friday, proposing that the Italian ex-player takes over as the manager of the team, in place of Julen Lopetegui. The team’s humiliating 5-1 defeat against arch-rival Barcelona F.C. at the weekend sparked a flurry of negotiations, talks that, until Sunday’s game, had been practically frozen as all sides waited for events to play out.

According to sources from the club, Real Madrid chairman Florentino Pérez was toying with the idea of signing up Portuguese coach José Mourinho – who was in charge at Real between 2010 and 2013 – until the very last minute, but this proved unpopular with some of the players. The club was also considering keeping on Julen Lopetegui to gain some time, as long as the result of the game against Barcelona was not too scandalous. But the score line on Sunday put paid to that idea.

The club was also considering keeping on Julen Lopetegui to gain some time, as long as the result of the game against Barcelona was not too scandalous

The club is hoping to sign the contract with Conte on Monday, and to officially present the former Chelsea coach on Tuesday. Meanwhile, they are not ruling out Castilla coach Santiago Solari taking over and being at the helm for the next King’s Cup match, due to be played on Wednesday in Melilla.

Mourinho and Conte have been at the top of Florentino Pérez’s list for candidates to replace Lopetegui. In the summer, it was the general director of the club, José Ángel Sánchez, who was in charge of the process to sign Lopetegui, when all other options were exhausted. His hiring by the club was hugely controversial, given that Real Madrid announced the deal just before Spain’s first match at the World Cup – Lopetegui was, at the time, in charge of the national team and ended up being fired and sent home before a player kicked a single ball.

This time around, Pérez has taken charge of the process, and was looking for a strict manager, one who would be unwavering when it comes to discipline, someone with authority who could knock into shape a squad that has lost the mental energy necessary to maintain the level of competition needed. Pérez and his team are convinced that the culprits behind this, the club’s worst streak of results since 2007, are the players themselves. The arrival of Conte, if the deal is done, could be a chance to prove him right.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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