Real Madrid were always facing an “impossible” task to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, says Ramon Calderon, with Julen Lopetegui now “condemned” as he heads towards an inevitable departure.
A summer of much change at the Santiago Bernabeu saw talismanic figures on and off the field head for the exits, leaving those left behind to pick up the pieces.
Lopetegui was drafted in as successor to Zinedine Zidane in the dugout, shortly before five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo completed a stunning switch to Juventus.
Madrid have toiled in the absence of two club icons, with a five-match winless run sparking inevitable talk of more movement on the bench and the need for reinforcements to be drafted in during the winter transfer window.
Former president Calderon believes such a dip was inevitable, telling Love Sport Radio: “The main problem beyond any doubt has been [Ronaldo’s] exit. It’s impossible to replace a player like this: 50 goals a season, more than 500 goals in the nine years he was here and also a lack of planning. Last two years we’ve been suffering from that.
“Last year, we finished 15 points behind Barcelona and we were knocked out of the cup by a lower-level team. It’s true that we managed to win the Champions League with difficult knockout matches against Juventus and Bayern Munich but, in those, Cristiano was the key play for winning them, so not having him is real trouble.”
He added: “We have to consider that the World Cup has taken its toll, mainly with players like [Luka] Modric and [Raphael] Varane. They played all the matches until the final and we’ve seen that in other teams like in Barcelona with [Ivan] Rakitic.
“The main problem with Real Madrid is that to win is an obligation not an aspiration. When the problems come, always the crisis appears. But, we’ve been in a situation like this before and we’ve come out.”
Lopetegui is unlikely to be given the chance to rebuild at Real, with his position now considered untenable as Madrid head towards a first Clasico clash of the season with arch-rivals Barcelona on Sunday.
He may make it to that contest at Camp Nou, but several candidates are reportedly being lined up to step into his shoes.
Jose Mourinho has been linked with a second spell at the Bernabeu, with Calderon saying of the current Manchester United boss: “Many names have been said and I think it’s only rumours.
“It’s clear that this president likes Mourinho. When he was here, he backed him in any problems he had but he said just yesterday that he is happy with Manchester United. But, he has a contract with them, so we cannot talk about that until he leaves Man United, if he does.”
Ex-Chelsea and Juventus manager Antonio Conte is considered to be another leading contender to inherit the reins in the Spanish capital, with Calderon adding on an unfortunate situation: “Unfortunately, I think [Lopetegui] has been condemned. A few weeks ago the president thinks he is not the man to run the club.
“He’s been in touch with many coaches but it’s not by chance that Zidane left and five important coaches rejected that bench. It’s because this president [Florentino Perez] interferes very much with what is happening on the ground with the line-ups and the signings. That, for coaches, is always a problem.
“I think they have been in touch with Conte but he is sorting out his situation with Chelsea. [Santiago] Solari is the coach of the second team at Real Madrid… I don’t know. We have to wait until Lopetegui is not with the club to look for another one.”