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Ramos' defence of Lopetegui is the worst thing for him

  /  autty

I'm sure that Sergio Ramos had the best of intentions when he said it would be crazy to sack Julen Lopetegui after the loss to Alaves.

However, this sincere and logical backing of the tactician from Ramos isn't the best defence the under-fire coach could use, not at all. In fact, his superiors would probably consider it the worst defence.

Lopetegui has been in charge of Real Madrid for a little over three months and, from the second LaLiga Santander match onwards, his decisions have been called into question at the club. On August 26 away at Girona, he didn't use Luka Modric or Raphael Varane or Thibaut Courtois, nor did he include Vinicius Junior in the squad. Florentino Perez wouldn't have believed the line-up when he saw it in the box at the Estadi Montilivi. Even though Real Madrid won 4-1, played well, scored goals and went joint-top, the idea that the president had of his coach started to shake. This was also the case when any of the coach's predecesors made decisions that didn't correspond with Perez's ideas, but this is also how the president has won five Champions Leagues. He's now 71 and won't change his ways.

Lopetegui inherited a number of problems upon taking over in the dugout. One of them was the direct consequence of losing the club's all-time top scorer and not signing a first-class replacement. Real Madrid didn't want to or didn't know how to see the immense void left behind, one which they should have addressed from the first post-Cristiano Ronaldo year. He left behind goals, results, hunger and leadership and nobody seems in a position to take over. They now realise this in private.

The second problem, which stems from Zinedine Zidane's exit, is one which they were aware of in the club offices. There was a veteran dressing room with too much power and with lots of (consented) defects having been acquired. They were full from success, according to the club's diagnosis. Zidane knew this would lead to worse things if drastic measures weren't taken and he demonstrated intelligence in June by leaving on a high.

Since he arrived, all of the decions that have been taken by Lopetegui have been interpreted from the directors' box in terms of an alleged giving in to the influences of the dressing room, with Ramos and Marcelo at the front of the demanding core. In reality, what has been underlined since the first moment is a lack of trust in some players ahead of a lack of trust in the coach. There are suspicions that there are political decisions and that the coach is giving concessions to some players, suspicions which are behind the rotating in goals, the lack of opportunities for Vinicius Junior, the absence of Ramos in Moscow and the permission given for him to join pre-season a day late, the permission granted to Ramos to take penalties and freekicks and the fact that pre-match meetups have been shortened. The next step would be for the team to stop working hard physically, a classic entry in the manual of a coach's sacking.

If the team fails to win the next two matches or if they leave the Camp Nou in tatters then Lopetegui won't stay on. Results are what decide these things, even more so at Real Madrid. However, even if they bring in a pyromaniac like Antonio Conte or a temporary replacement like Santiago Solari, then the club will still have to deal with the renewal of a tough core, one which has formed part of an unforgettable cycle but which is giving off symptoms of exhaustion. This is a task for a president, not for a coach.