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Julen Lopetegui appointed new Spanish national team coach

A more daring appointment than many expected, the 49 year-old Lopetegui is very familiar with the current crop of Spanish youngsters.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Amazingly enough, the Spanish football authorities have made a bold appointment—maybe not as bold as naming Paco Jemez, but bold nonetheless—in appointing Julen Lopetegui as the new national team coach.

This appointment does a couple of things: it is a generational change from the Vicente del Bosque/Luis Aragones years. Lopetegui is 49 (similar age as Marcelino).

Secondly, the RFEF has appointed a coach who is familiar with the Spanish players coming through the youth system, and has coached them to success. Lopetegui has coached the under-19, under-20 and under-21 sides, leading them to success in European competition.

Third, Lopetegui is a coach whose playing experience took place mostly at small clubs—Logroñes and Rayo Vallecano. Yes, he came up with Castilla, he was on the rosters of both Madrid and Barcelona, but compared to Aragones (Atleti through and through) and del Bosque (Real Madrid), Lopetegui should be more willing to look throughout La Liga for players.

That does not necessarily mean Villarreal players like Mario Gaspar and Sergio Asenjo will get called up, but they should get a better chance.

Lopetegui’s career at Porto didn’t go too well, but the RFEF have evidently decided there’s a difference between national team management and club management—and they’re probably right. His first match in charge will be a friendly on September 1 versus Belgium, who will also be led by a new coach after Marc Wilmots’ unlamented departure. Spain-Lichtenstein on September 4 probably won’t tell us much, but qualifiers on the road against Italy and Albania in early October certainly will.