Real Madrid sack Lopetegui: How Ballon d’Or nominees flopped under new coach

Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as Real Madrid head coach after seeing the winners of the last three Champions League finals slip to ninth in LaLiga.

The former Spain coach struggled at the Santiago Bernabeu and, upon his departure on Monday, the club noted that eight Madrid players were nominated for the Ballon d’Or and should be capable of better.

While Lopetegui has paid the price for his poor decisions, those world-class stars did not always help their coach in the opening 14 games of the campaign.

Following his sacking, we look at how Madrid’s octet of potential prize-winners have underperformed so far this term.

THIBAUT COURTOIS (Appearances: 8)

A new signing under Lopetegui, Courtois had to wait for his chance before replacing Keylor Navas. Despite conceding five at Barcelona on Sunday, the ex-Chelsea goalkeeper could hardly be blamed for that result or the coach’s demise.

RAPHAEL VARANE (Appearances: 12, Goals: 0)

The partnership of Varane and Sergio Ramos should be among the best in Europe, but the duo have struggled in 2018-19. Varane was dropped for last week’s Champions League game following a string of poor displays and then hobbled out of the Clasico after a humiliating first half.

SERGIO RAMOS (Appearances: 13, Goals: 3)

Ramos could be accused of some rash decision-making even under Zidane, but his defensive work was particularly shoddy while Lopetegui was at the helm. The captain was all over the place as Madrid fell apart at Camp Nou, their opponents revelling in the fallibility of one of the game’s greats.

MARCELO (Appearances: 10, Goals: 3)

Brazil defender Marcelo appeared to be doing more than most to try to rescue Lopetegui. The coach’s reign ended with goals from the left-back in three consecutive games, yet his displays at the other end, as with Ramos, were below par.

LUKA MODRIC (Appearances: 14, Goals: 0)

Modric may have featured in all 14 games under Lopetegui, but a World Cup hangover and talk of a switch to Inter appeared to distract the midfielder. Tipped to win the Ballon d’Or this year, the Croatian was too often below his brilliant best.

ISCO (Appearances: 10, Goals: 2)

Although familiar with Lopetegui from international level, Isco was limited to just eight starts as the coach handed Marco Asensio the opportunity to stake his claim for a place. The midfielder became a key man under Zidane but a lack of continuity seems to have impacted his performances this term.

GARETH BALE (Appearances: 12, Goals: 4)

Fresh from a sensational Champions League final performance and now the main man in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence, Bale should have set the world alight this season. He started strongly with Lopetegui’s guidance but soon faded, his display in Sunday’s Clasico contributing to a miserable afternoon.

KARIM BENZEMA (Appearances: 14, Goals: 6)

Benzema looked to be at risk at the Bernabeu when Zidane, a clear fan, departed. Ronaldo’s departure and the lack of an elite alternative kept the former France international in the side, though, even as a dreadful goal drought made Lopetegui’s position untenable.

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