Real Madrid unveiled Julen Lopetegui officially tonight. It was controversial, to be sure, as the press conference took place about an hour or so after Spain revealed Fernando Hierro to the press in Russia. This entire saga has been bizarre, and a lot of emotion has been involved from all angles. It’s hard to see objective takes either way, and it’s one of those things where you feel regardless of how Real Madrid handled this situation, there would’ve been people triggered. As Eduardo Alvarez and I put it on last night’s (must-listen, really) podcast, Rubiales’s decision was like pouring gasoline on a fire, and regardless of what’s right and what’s wrong, Lopetegui is going to come out of this looking bad.
Note: I don't actually think Julen is a villain like a lot of other people do, but this will be the narrative either way.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) June 14, 2018
For what it’s worth, his speech tonight was great. The presser started off with Florentino coming out to defend the decision and Real Madrid’s values while chastising Rubiales. When Lopetegui spoke shortly after, half the press-room was in tears.
I’ve done my best to summarize everything below, starting with the Hierro / Ramos presser. It‘s a bit scattered, but at least chronological.
One quick note before I share the quotes: Sergio Ramos was very vocal during this whole thing. He was among the leading camp that tried to dissuade Rubiales from sacking Lopetegui; but was also the first to speak about unity when the decision was made. He spoke highly of Hierro and looked to ensure everyone in the Spanish camp is banded together.
“There are few people more qualified than Fernando Hierro to cover for Lopetegui’s departure,” Ramos told reporters. “He was an outstanding player that we’ve all admired for a long time and he knows us full well.”
“He is one of the most perfect candidates to cover this post, and I hope that this will be a squad that has the same dreams and ambitions as before and that it will not affect us in any way.”
”These were not pleasant times. Julen Lopetegui was part of this effort, he helped us qualify, but leaving aside any personal issues, the Spanish side is more important and the sooner we focus on the World Cup, the better for all,” he said.
“I am carrying my country, my team and there are very few things that are as big as this. I think football teaches us lessons when we are in difficult situations, and I think this is an opportunity for us to grow,”
”We need to focus on the same shared goal. Nothing is going to change in that regard.”
Juiciest of all....
“We don’t value Rubiales ‘ decisions. He has more power and they’re the ones who decide. We as players do out talking on the pitch. I hope that no player talks about the subject until the World Cup ends.”
“It is true that there is very little time to prepare, but the moment is here and we are clear about what we want to achieve,” Hierro said.
”This will not change, and we will see the same old Spain, the one that wants to take the initiative.”
”The urgency is the urgency, but we respect all of the work that has been done over time,”
”We know that Portugal have a great team and they are the champions of Europe.
”We are perfectly prepared and that is the most important thing.
”I have a ton of confidence in our players and the work they have put in over the past few years.”
...Right, so, this is all juicy and good from start to finish...
“Welcome to the presentation of our new manager, an act we wanted to have after the World Cup and hopefully after another national success.
“However, sadly, circumstances mean we are here now.
“It’s a huge amount of satisfaction for us to welcome the new manager, someone who knows, well, this house.
“A magnificent professional, welcome Julen Lopetegui”
“Fans of our club are going to give you a lot of affection.
“it’s inevitable there will be comments about what happened.
Real Madrid and Julen Lopetegui made an agreement in just a few hours, respecting the clauses of his contract.
“We thought, in order to make this agreement before the World Cup, to make it transparent, to avoid speculation and rumours.
“There’s no precedence that a manager agrees to be a manager after the competition, and that agreement has been interpreted as being disloyal.
“If you think it’s disloyal - well that’s not how we do things in the 21st century in Spain.
“it’s not true at all.”
“We wanted to make it clear and transparent to prevent leaks that would damage the national team.
“I told the president of the federation, which both parts agreed.
“We had the legitimate agreements - it seemed all normal - and we then thought there would be a press conference between the president and Julen Lopetegui.
“Then it turned out to be about pride for the president, who has disrespected Real Madrid.
“There have been other cases - Conte, Van Gaal - dozens of others who have agreed before or during a competition.
“But Real Madrid are proud to contribute to the success of the Spanish national team, and it’s important to be unified, to be able to grow, as the most respected an loved club in the world.
“We need to work together against those who wish to destroy our image.
“We need to come together against this wave of anti-Madridismo - especially when we’re having one of the best moments in our history.
“We still cannot understand why this agreement could affect the players, who really want to be world champions again, which is what we all want.”
“There’s nothing that justifies Julen Loptegui being on the bench in tomorrow’s game.
“But today is an important day for all of us.
“We have a man who is fulfilling one of his dreams. It’s a huge challenge that not many people get to face.
Julen you will get all support and I want to welcome you to your home, of Real Madrid.”
“Thank you president.
“I feel the strength that accompanies Real Madrid here.
You have to be strong here and we’re going to use that to keep growing in footballing terms.
Together, we want to try and win everything. From there, I just want to say thankyou to everyone.
I feel part of the Real Madrid family.
And yesterday, after the death of my mother, was the saddest of my life.”
“But today, is the happiest day of my life.
“Thank you, and I’m here for whatever you need.”
A cycle has been completed and I’m very, very happy.
“The president has explained it very well. Loyalty is telling the truth.
“When there was something to know, he was the first person to know.
“I wanted to give the press conference that same day but he was far away so I had to wait for him.
“Then what happened during those hours, I don’t know.We just wanted to be honest with everyone, to make the agreement public. hiding it would have been bad.
“The players took it absolutely fine. They trained well. And I’ve nothing else to say. I’ll be cheering on that magnificent group of players.
“I’m sure they’ll make us world champions.”
On the short notice given to Rubiales:
“It’s clear. This has happened before.
“We wanted to be clear when there was something concrete, not before.
“He congratulated me, he was cordial. And then, I don’t know.
“I’m very loyal, loyal to my responsibilities. I learned that at Real Madrid when I was very young.
“Now I just want to cheer on Spain, put on the shirt, and hopefully we’ll be world champions again.”
On ‘being humiliated’:
“No. Humiliation doesn’t depend on the person, it depends on you.
“I’m calm. We’re all quite calm. We acted honestly and professionally.
“If the president wants to act in a certain way, then I don’t know.
“We’ve acted professionally, honestly above all.
“There was no effect on the players.”
Lopetegui: “If this was any other club other than Real Madrid, would I still be on the Spanish bench? That’s a good question... I think Rubiales should’ve done things in a different way. Anyways, tomorrow I’ll meet with Florentino and José Ángel to talk transfers.”— SB (@Realmadridplace) June 14, 2018
His last words:
“I’m coming back home”