Sports

Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui warns Lionel Messi not to doubt his squad

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ulen Lopetegui has told Lionel Messi he is unwise to doubt his Real Madrid squad after the Argentine said Los Blancos were “less good” since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.
 
Messi, 31, told Catalunya Radio on Monday night that Real Madrid were not as good since Ronaldo left for Juventus, but the new manager said it would be wrong to doubt the players he has left at the Santiago Bernabeu.
 
“I wouldn’t doubt these Real Madrid players for a second,” said Lopetegui in an interview with El Transistor, while adding that he never spoke to the Portuguese prior to his exit.
 
“I didn’t speak to [Ronaldo],” Lopetegui said. “It’s a situation that when I arrived, he had shown a desire to leave and the club facilitated it. I respected it and the strategy was taken.”
 
And Lopetegui was also adamant that he had no regrets about his choice to manage Real Madrid even though it cost him his job as Spain coach right before the start of the World Cup in Russia.
 
“I don’t regret the decision I made, I’d go back and make it again,” said Lopetegui, who was replaced by former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique as Spain coach. “It doesn’t hurt to hear talk about the Spain national team. I am absolutely happy to train Real Madrid, I have a wonderful challenge.
 
“I wish Spain the best, to Luis Enrique and all of Spanish football. I am a follower of the Spain team. I think I did things correct, with the greatest honesty always under the premise that I would say yes to Real Madrid.”
 
And when pushed by reporters about what exactly happened in his discussions with Luis Rubiales and the Spanish federation, Lopetegui refused to be drawn out.
 
“I don’t want to bring the past up again, everyone will have their opinion, I am absolutely calm about what I did and how I did it,” he said as he refused to answer what was said behind the scenes.
 
“I said yes to Real Madrid while keeping my responsibility to the national team, I was completely honest.
 
“I wanted to say yes to Real Madrid and I said yes to Real Madrid.”
 
When asked who Vinicius Junior, his new Brazilian signing, was like out of Neymar, Ronaldinho or Robinho, Lopetegui wouldn’t answer, but did give a list of things he likes about the 18-year-old.
 
“He’s a kid who has played on the left side, adapted his position in attack, is fast, and has a good mentality, that’s the important thing,” he said.
 
Vinicius was sent down to Real Madrid’s reserves where he scored twice against Atleti’s youth team on Sunday, and Lopetegui said he put him there so they could be close to his progression and so he could train with Real Madrid’s first team, which he sees as a great opportunity.
 
“We haven’t found the moment to play Vinicius [in the first team], but it will arrive,” he said. “I don’t know if he will play the Champions League or not.”
 
After the arrival of Thibaut Courtois in the summer, a deal Lopetegui says he was privy to, he has been left with two world class keepers along with Keylor Navas and both want to start.
 
On Saturday, the Belgium international played his first minutes of the season, but it is still unclear what Lopetegui’s plans are for the remainder of the season.
 
“I spoke with them alone,” he said. “They are private conversations I didn’t say which would play the league or the Champions League, and in time we will say. Different keepers can participate at different times.”
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