Julen Lopetegui

An elite Head Coach - Julen Lopetegui in profile

Julen Lopetegui is an elite Head Coach.

In two decades on the touchline and the training ground, in the dressing room and the dugout, Lopetegui has made a positive difference at virtually every stop in his illustrious career.

He takes football teams, and makes them better.

First, in 2012, Lopetegui took Spain’s U19s to the UEFA European Championship finals. They won the tournament without losing a single game.

A year later, in 2013, he led Spain’s U21s to the UEFA European Championship finals. They won the tournament without losing a single game.

Spain U21s celebrate winning the 2013 UEFA European Championship

In 2014, he took charge at FC Porto, led the Portuguese club to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and lost just three league matches in 18 months.

In 2016, he was appointed Spain head coach. In two years at the helm of his national team, they did not lose a single game.

In 2019, he joined Sevilla. In his first season, he led the Spanish side to UEFA Europa League glory and qualification for the Champions League. In a little over seasons in Andalusia, he won 90 matches.

In 2022, he inherited a Wolverhampton Wanderers squad sat rock bottom of the Premier League table. He led them to nine top-flight wins and a comfortable mid-table finish.

Julen Lopetegui celebrates winning the UEFA Europa League

He takes footballers, and improves them.

Among the young Spanish players who have benefitted from Lopetegui’s methods and philosophy were future full internationals Isco, Álvaro Morata, Dani Carvajal, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Paco Alcácer and Álex Grimaldo. 

At FC Porto, a young Casemiro established himself in European football.

At Sevilla, the likes of France defender Jules Koundé, Argentina winger Lucas Ocampos, Spanish Óliver Torres and Morocco centre-forward Youssef En-Nesyri all played the best football of their careers under Lopetegui’s guidance.

At Wolves, Max Kilman grew into one of the Premier League’s best young centre-backs. 

Above all, I aspire for my team to have a defined personality, and clear tactics so that during the game we know how to come up with the best solutions
Julen Lopetegui

In all, Lopetegui has taken charge of 403 matches with club and country. He has won 230 (57%) of them, and lost just 84 (21%). His teams have scored nearly two goals per game, on average, and conceded less than a goal per game.

The 57-year-old has become one of the most respected coaches in world football, but how has he put that track record together? 

He lives and breathes football and, to use a familiar phrase, is a diligent student of the game.

His clear but flexible philosophy lends itself to working in different leagues, with players from different backgrounds, and to moulding individuals into a team which can adapt to different opponents and game situations in both attack and defence.

In attack, Lopetegui’s sides have most commonly been set up in a 4-3-3 formation, with ball-playing centre-backs split wide, marauding full-backs, a narrow, rotating midfield three willing to drop deep and collect the ball on the half-turn, wide attackers who find space between the lines, and a mobile hard-working centre-forward who can keep opposing defenders on the back foot.

Out of possession, they like to press and play with intensity, before often dropping into a 4-1-4-1 shape in a mid-block, reducing space and cutting off passing lanes.

Julen Lopetegui with Gerard Pique

In his own words, Lopetegui explained: “Above all, I aspire for my team to have a defined personality, and clear tactics so that during the game we know how to come up with the best solutions. For that to happen, each player’s commitment and understanding of the game is essential.”

Commitment and understanding are characteristics Lopetegui, and his teams, have demonstrated, wherever he has coached.

He has also demonstrated another vital trait for the modern-day coach, namely player management. At a time when the scrutiny and pressures placed on young footballers is stronger than ever before, Lopetegui is acutely aware of the need to ensure his players are supported and prepared, physically and mentally, to not just handle those challenges, but thrive in the environment that he and his coaches create.

Importantly, Lopetegui is well-versed in working with a Technical Director, as he will do with Tim Steidten at West Ham United.

While the structure may be new to the Hammers, it is not new to the new Head Coach, who enjoyed success working with his fellow former goalkeeper Monchi at Sevilla. Together, they returned the club to the winner’s circle, lifting the Europa League trophy in 2020.

Julen Lopetegui has shown his willingness and ability to work at big, high-profile clubs. He has the experience and the maturity to embrace the challenge of joining a West Ham United who have grown – grown in profile, grown in performance, grown in stature – into a Club widely respected across the football world, just like their new, elite Head Coach.


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