“Cristiano is one of the most important players in the club’s history,” the man who replaced Zinedine Zidane this summer said. “He expressed his intention to go and the club facilitated his exit, recognizing the legacy he has left behind.”
Ronaldo’s departure has left a huge hole for Madrid to fill. However, Lopetegui says he’s relishing the challenge of leading the side into a new era.
“When I signed (Ronaldo) still belonged to the club, but soon after he expressed his intention to go.
“It’s an exciting challenge reinventing the team without Ronaldo, making it competitive and capable of winning titles. I have no doubt that it will happen with these players that we have.”
Madrid have been linked with several strikers as observers wonder how Ronaldo’s near 50-goal average per season will be replaced – he managed 44 across all competitions last season – but Lopetegui played down the possibility of a replacement being signed.
“We won’t talk about hypotheticals,” he said. “The reality is that I am convinced by the team I have. I prefer not to talk about things that haven’t happened.”
The Costa Rican has had to contend with rumours of the club looking to bring in other players at his position throughout his time in Madrid, and this summer has been no different.
“I spoke with him and we are happy to have him and happy it is how it is,” the Spaniard said.
“There is nothing more to say.
“Keylor has been crucial [to this team] for a long time and will continue to be. We want to continue enjoying the performances that Keylor has given for Madrid.”
“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.”