“At the moment, we’re doing double sessions and we’re delighted with the work, the attitude and enthusiasm of the players,” says Lopetegui.
“We have a lot young players contributing. There are no injuries, and we are taking big steps forward as we expected.”
With Spain having reached the knockout stages and Croatia and France going all the way to the final, several of Lopetegui’s key players are missing, but Lopetegui chose to talk up their quality rather than bemoan their absence – while reinforcing his happiness with the rest of the squad.
“We have excellent players on standby: (Sergio) Ramos, (Raphael) Varane, (Luka) Modric, (Mateo) Kovacic.”
“We are delighted with the team we have. We are convinced we can fight to achieve all of our objectives and work to be a good team.”
Madrid play Manchester United in their first preseason fixture, on Wednesday, and Lopetegui says the game will be a good test of his side’s readiness for the season ahead.
“The important thing is preparation for the season ahead. In terms of fitness, tactics, getting up to speed for the competition, some players need more time.
“But at Madrid there is no such thing as a friendly.
“We have had less time to prepare. I think that they have already played four games.
“We will try to be at our best, to put in a good performance and avoid injuries.
“We are moving forward in the preparation for the (European) Supercup; that is the first official game of the season.”
Sergio Ramos is an integral figure to Real Madrid, but several of his teammates are said to be unhappy about the club allowing the captain to extend his summer break for the second successive year.
According to Marca, Ramos was given permission to have a longer holiday from coaching staff, but the preferential treatment hasn’t gone down well with some fellow Los Blancos stars.
Fellow Spain players Isco, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vasquez and Nacho came back on July 25 and 26 following their World Cup exploits, whereas Dani Carvajal joined up with the squad on July 29.
Ramos, however, didn’t show up until August 1 and therefore missed Real’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Manchester United in the United Staters.
The captain, 32, still commands immense respect in the dressing room but not everyone is pleased ahead of a challenging season.
Ramos has won four La Liga titles and led the team to an unprecedented three Champions League trophies in a row, and will be getting his side ready for the upcoming UEFA Super Cup clash with city rivals Atletico Madrid on August 15.
Julen Lopetegui has a made a smart move by adding former Los Blancos midfielder Albert Celades to his coaching staff as his chief assistant.
The duo know each other well.
Celades worked as one of Lopetegui’s right-hand men as part of Spain’s national set-up ahead of the World Cup, before the latter’s infamous sacking.
Indeed, the 42-year-old Celades, who spent five seasons at Los Blancos between 2000 and 2005 having started his career at the Whites’ eternal rivals Barcelona, was in the frame to succeed Lopetegui for La Roja’s top job before Fernando Hierro got the nod for Russia (albeit only temporarily).
Either way, the ex-defensive but ball-playing central midfield star is highly-rated as a coach and arrives in the Bernabeu dugout with the credentials of having led Spain’s under-16 and 21 sides at various junctures since 2013, and securing a 2017 European Championship final berth with the older age group.
The opportunity to return to Madrid proved too good to turn down for him, and given he had a similar fallout with the Spanish Football Federation like Lopetegui even after staying on with the team throughout this summer’s tournament, it makes sense that these two should be back working together, but in a completely new realm minus Cristiano Ronaldo.
Celades brings a calming, assured voice to the dressing room and will also command respect from Real’s star-studded set of players.
Amazingly, the winner of four La Liga titles – two with Barcelona and a brace with Real along with a 2002 Champions League winners’ medal to boot – Celades featured during the Galactico era but never quite excelled, or indeed lived up to his potential as a rising teenage star at Camp Nou.
Still, the one-time Real Zaragoza and New York Red Bulls man has bags of experience and pedigree under his belt, including assisting Vicente del Bosque during the 2014 World Cup, and it should make for a seamless fit.
Lopetegui’s plans to build around Isco and make the Spaniard the focal point of Real during 2018/19 will also include Celades, who whilst never being on the same technical level as Real’s current No22, is set to be tasked with helping Isco understand what is required of him in a free playmaking role.
Indeed, the coach’s ball retention and possession-based tactical ideas to build from the back this coming term are very much on the same wavelength as Celades, who earned a reputation as a slick passer and disciplined his Spanish youth sides to create from defence.
Possession-based football is a hallmark of Lopetegui’s teams, as we saw from the former Real Madrid goalkeeper during his time with Spain but he will need to work closely alongside Celades in instilling an effective pressing system in La Liga.