“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” These were the infamous words of Brutus in justifying the assassination of Julius Caesar as staged in Shakespeare’s ever classical tragedy – A play delineated by the subterfuge of Cassius, the perfidy of Brutus and the ultimate quietus of Julius Caesar. In a typical plot of power struggle, Brutus a highly revered confidante of Julius Caesar is manipulated by Cassius and joins the plot to assassinate the ever popular Roman General, Julius Caesar. In a bizarre turn of events, the action of killing Caesar appears impolitic and futile. Out of frustration and guilt Brutus takes his own life. From politics to the corporate world, shades of deceit and betrayal abound. Football as a cultural institution is no exception.
Conceptualize being coach of the country renowned for its Tiki-taka brand of football, home to the dynamic duo of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF – a reference point for every club in the world. After an impressive qualifying series (W9 D1), the obvious favourite tag has been bestowed on the team. Your team is seeking to erase the horrors of their previous World Cup appearance whilst concurrently hoping to match the heroics of the much revered 2010 squad. In a move quite reminiscent of the infamous Saipan incident leading to Roy Keane’s departure from the Irish squad on the eve of the 2002 World Cup, Further visualize getting sacked 48 hours prior to managing your first game at the World Cup. Your transgression? Accepting and signing a contract to manage Real Madrid whiles preparing to lead La Furia Roja to World Cup glory. An approach deemed professionally unethical and an unwanted distraction to an already politically volatile squad (considering the perpetual Catalan/Spain rivalry). The aftereffects of your actions? Spain suffer a disastrous World Cup campaign, bowing out to Russia in the round of 16. Also, 4 months and 17 days into your Real Madrid reign which culminates in the club’s worst start to a league season since the 01/02 season, Real Madrid relieves you of managerial duties.
Welcome to the veridical and unfortunate world of Julen Lopetegui Argote. A man whose fall from the apex of Spain and Real Madrid to the substratum of unemployment within the space of 139 days is self-inflicted and tragic. Questions have been asked about the timing and bizarre decision by Real Madrid’s President, Florentino Pérez to appoint a coach who has had a tepid record managing at club level. In fact, during Lopetegui’s 2-year (2014-2016) stint as manager of FC Porto, the club went trophy less despite having the biggest ever transfer budget in their history. His greatest spell as a coach was obviously with the national team where he was unbeaten in his 20 games (W14 D6).
Florentino Pérez’s quest to remain competitive at the expense of the success of the Spanish national team by enticing Lopetegui to switch allegiances. A catastrophic move thus far, bears striking semblance to Cassius’ manipulation.
Lopetegui’s gullibility and subsequent betrayal of his RFEF employers and a whole nation is reminiscent of Brutus. A possibility of career suicide stemming from a perpetual hiatus away from the dugout might suffice. Perhaps in his defence, he might just say “Not that I loved Spain less, but that I loved Real Madrid more.”