From family steakhouse to wolves, at last: Lopetegui’s journey and his love for attacking football

In many ways, it was great that Julen Lopetegui found his way into football, not to mention Wolverhampton.

The new Wolverhampton coach grew up in the Basque Country in northern Spain in a home fascinated by two other sports.

However, the young man grew up from a famous father and an athletic brother to be the most famous member of the Lopetegui clan, at least outside of Asteasu, the small town in which he lived his childhood.

After what at times felt like a six-year courtship, the 56-year-old finally heads to Molineux on a mission to return the wolves to their former heights under Fosson, whose presence he often felt like the Holy Grail.

Any Premier League publication would have seemed a million miles away in his childhood, in a family who barely scored football for themselves.

Lopetegui learned about fame at a young age.

The new Chief of Wolves has grown up in a huge shadow of “Agerre II”.

This was the nickname José Antonio, his father, adopted during a legendary career as Harigasutziel, the Basque stone-lifter champion who once set a world record by lifting 100kg 22 times per minute.

José Antonio, whose health has been widely covered in the last month since his son rejected wolves for the second time, gained a kind of popularity with the traditional Basque sport that made him mayor of Astaso and attracted a delegation from the Franco regime in a failed attempt to turn him into an international boxer.

Agerre II – brother and fellow stone-lifter Louis Agerre I – grew up dreaming of becoming a pelotari, one of the defenders of the Basque court games in the pelota, before his physical strength took over and helped make his name.

Joxean, Julen’s older brother, excelled at pelota and later recounted that Julen was more talented at sports. But once Julen moved schools to Marianistas in neighboring San Sebastian, football and goalkeeping became his passion.

Young Yulin quickly found success in Real Sociedad’s youth teams but his father initially disapproved, especially when Yulin’s obsession with his newfound athletic love influenced work at the family steakhouse, where Lopetegui’s boys worked on the grill and their sisters waited. tables.

“We always had a ball with us, and he liked to challenge us and see if we were able to score goals against him,” Javier Iraola, a childhood friend who now works as a butcher in Astiaso, recalls speaking to Spanish newspaper Las Provencias.

“I still remember once we wrapped the food in it, he even forgot he had left the meat on the grill. Seven pieces were burnt, and his father wasn’t half upset.”

“I think the first time he saw him playing on the field as a goalkeeper was on TV, in the final between the youth teams of La Real (Sociedad) and Real Madrid.” Juxian tells Las Provincias about their father’s reservations.

Yulen’s talent and determination quickly became apparent, recalls Loren, who played as a striker for Real Sociedad’s youth team himself and went on to serve as the club’s sporting director.

“Jolen had a strong personality and a desire to succeed which probably comes from the sporting traditions in his family,” Loren told Las Provincias.

“It wasn’t easy hitting him at anything, even cards.”

In one match in Zaragoza, the young goalkeeper collided with a post.

“He broke his cheekbones and shook, but he kept playing until we realized he had lost part of his sight and was half unconscious,” says Lauren.

The determination paid off, and after he married Rosa Makeda, Lopetegui built a successful playing career.

He won one match with Spain, was an unused player in the 1994 World Cup and played football for his club especially with Logrones and Rayo Vallecano in the second division of Spain, for three years as a substitute in Real Madrid, perhaps the most important for him. The future with Barcelona in the mid-nineties.

Lopetegui during his playing days with Rayo Vallecano in 2000 (Image: Getty Images)

Lopetegui during his playing days with Rayo Vallecano in 2000 (Image: Getty Images)

While with Barcelona, ​​Lopetegui met Johan Cruyff and became a disciple of some of the Dutch legend’s styles.

“His thinking was one step ahead of the rest,” Lopetegui said in an interview with BBC 5 Live with journalist Guillem Balaghi.

“And another important thing is that he understands that you (a player) are thinking about the game and asking ‘Why? “

“So (as a coach) you have to be prepared to explain to the players why they are required to do certain things. The players need to know why we are working on a certain reason and why at a certain moment in the game we will choose a certain solution.

“I think if a player understands what is happening in the game he is a stronger player.”

Lopetegui’s interest in coaching sparked outrage, and after ending his career at Vallecano, he wasted no time switching to coaching ranks. His last training session was completed a month after his football career ended, and soon after he was appointed by the Spanish Federation – and national team manager Inaki Saez – as goalkeeper coach.

A spell as Vallecano’s manager soon followed, but Lopetegui later admitted he wasn’t quite as prepared for the role as he thought, given that he was managing players who had recently been teammates and friends.

He worked as a TV analyst before returning to the Spanish Federation in 2010 and starting to build a reputation as a coach.

He coached his country’s youth teams, winning the 2012 European Under-19 Championship with a squad that included Kepa Arrizabalaga, now at Chelsea, current Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul and defender Jonny, whom he has now met at Molino.

A year later, he took home another award at the European Under-21 Championship with David de Gea, Koke, Rodrygo, Dani Carvajal and Isco at his disposal.

Enjoy success with Spanish youth teams (Image: Getty Images)

Enjoy success with Spanish youth teams (Image: Getty Images)

This success earned him a chance at Porto, where he spent 18 months and reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

In Portugal, Lopetegui managed to train a young midfielder named Ruben Neves and a promising goalkeeper, Jose Sa.

Lopetegui and Wolves were in different places when they nearly met for the first time.

In 2016, with Fosun completing the acquisition of Molineux and its agent Jorge Mendes on the cusp of an influential position, one of his rising clients was ready to join the revolution as manager.

With the deal agreed and ready to be announced, Lopetegui received an unexpected call from the Spanish Federation with an offer he couldn’t refuse. He took over as Spain coach and left Wolves with Walter Zenga.

But after that impending, Fosun and CEO Jeff Shea continued to carry the football torch for Lopetegui.

Their stories followed similar paths, with Wolves advancing to the Premier League and Europa League under Nuno Espirito Santo while Lopetegui led Spain to qualification for the 2018 World Cup before being sacked on the eve of the tournament after accepting the opportunity to manage Real Madrid. Madrid.

They were two of the highest positions of his career, and although they were left unfulfilled, he won the respect of his colleagues.

“Yolin is a great coach – for me the best coach I’ve ever worked with,” said Pablo Franco, his assistant at Real Madrid. the athlete.

“He is well prepared and has great knowledge of the game. He is very methodical and he is very good at the day-to-day work in training.

“He does high quality training sessions and is a very hardworking guy who demands a lot from the staff and from his players.”

But after leaving the Bernabeu, Lopetegui built his reputation as the club’s coach and, in the eyes of some staff at Compton Park, helped start Wolves’ fall from their heyday under Nuno.

On their way to winning the Europa League 2020, Lopetegui led Sevilla beat Wolverhampton and Nuno in the quarter-finals. It was the climax of a three-year period in Seville that saw Lopetegui win three consecutive times in the top four in La Liga.

But when both Wolverhampton and Sevilla began failing at the start of the current season, leading to the sackings of Bruno Lage and Lopetegui, the prospect of the Premier League club and their dream manager reunited.

Xi traveled to Spain in the wake of Lage’s departure to make gestures to the 56-year-old, who parted ways with Sevilla just a few days later. But Jose Antonio’s poor health was the main reason for Lopetegui’s rejection for the second time.

Head of Wolves Jeff Shea (Image: Getty Images)

Head of Wolves Jeff Shea (Image: Getty Images)

But this week, he’s decided he’s finally ready to take on the Premier League he’s always wanted.

“England is a great league,” he told Ballage.

“Whenever you watch a game in England, you can feel the environment, the atmosphere, the respect for the coaches and players.

“I want to feel that because I feel like it’s the right place to be.”

Realizing the potential interest from rival clubs in the Premier League whose managers were under pressure, Wolves moved quickly once Lopetegui changed his mind – and offered him the opportunity he had been craving.

“Yolin is a great coach with excellent experience at an elite level in the game and we are very pleased to have agreed a deal to bring him to Wolverhampton,” Shi said on Lopetegui’s appointment.

“From the beginning, Julen has been our first choice to manage Wolverhampton, and we look forward to welcoming him and his team when they join us in the coming weeks.”

As they look to move away from the Premier League’s feet, Wolves will hope Lopetegui’s resume will bring weight to the club and an authority with players that Lagg could never lead.

The father of three will bring an overall management method that has been praised by Real Madrid players despite his short tenure.

“We are very demanding in all of our training because they need to be very focused in all situations and they need to understand why (we do things),” he told 5Live.

“I prefer the player who asks three times for ‘why’ over the one who doesn’t ask and doesn’t know why.

“If he understands what, why and how that is my solution and not my solution.”

Lopetegui will start his first Premier League role on Monday 14 November when he officially takes charge of the first-team squad. Franco believes he will base his plan for the Wolves on what he discovers, not on a blind devotion to the style of play.

“He loves offensive football and he loves the typical Spanish style, always taking the lead,” says Franco. “When he was the head coach of Spain and Real Madrid, it was more about playing with patience, trying to get the upper hand and then finishing the procedures.

“But when he went to Seville he changed a little bit and was a little more vertical, so he was able to adapt to the culture and style of the team.

“This is something that I feel will be very important when he finally moves to the UK because the pace of the game there is different and it is more physical. It will not change his whole style of football or his approach in terms of playing attacking football.

“But he will certainly adapt to the culture, the team and the league as he did in Seville.

“In Seville, if you pass the ball 15 or 20 times to try to find spaces, the fans will start booing you. So that wasn’t possible.

“So the approach was the same. He wanted to control the game, play in the half of the opposition, create chances and play positive football.

“But he only had to do it with six or seven passes and I think that could happen when he moves to England.

“His style with Spain and Real Madrid, we can perhaps compare him to Manchester City, and his style in Seville was closer to that of Liverpool.

“Rock and roll was like classical music.”

(Photo: Gwangju Ubeda/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)


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