Who is Santiago Solari? We profile the Real Madrid caretaker manager
Real Madrid have appointed Santiago Solari as their caretaker manager following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui, but who is the new Blancos interim head coach?
Lopetegui was relieved of his duties on Monday, the day after suffering a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Barcelona at the Nou Camp which capped off a run of five consecutive league games without a win.
Former Argentina international Solari has been promoted to take charge on a temporary basis, for now, and will take to the dugout for Real’s Copa del Rey clash with Melilla on Wednesday night.
But who exactly is Solari? We profile him here……
Career in football
Born on October 7, 1976 in Rosario, Argentina, Solari predominantly played as a left midfielder and broke into the professional game at River Plate, before joining the European football elite with a move to Atletico Madrid in January 1999.
However, when the Colchoneros slipped to relegation the following season, he joined city rivals Real Madrid and became a regular starter under coach Vicente Del Bosque.
There he enjoyed the best years of his career as he helped the team secure a ninth Champions League trophy in 2002 with a 2-1 win over German side Bayer Leverkusen.
After over 130 appearances with the Merengues, Solari was signed by Inter Milan, where he won three consecutive Serie A titles. However, he did not feature as much as he would have liked, and he returned to his native South America to spend the final years of his playing career which ended in 2011.
He took a two-year break before starting his managerial stint with a job with the Real Madrid U19 team. He was then promoted to manage the U21 Castilla side ahead of the 2016/17 season, competing in Segunda Division B – the third tier of Spanish football.
Real Madrid explained quite clearly that Solari was appointed on a temporary basis – he will have two weeks to take the team back to winning ways, unless the club find a suitable replacement before the deadline, with Antonio Conte and Roberto Martinez among the candidates.
However, the Spanish giants have shown a tendency to rely on their in-house solutions. They appointed Zinedine Zidane as their head coach in January 2016 and that brought them nine major trophies in three years, including three consecutive Champions League titles.
Solari and Zidane share a few similarities – they are both former Real Madrid players who started out their coaching career in the Blancos’ youth ranks and were elevated to first-team coach during a mid-season crisis.
As a trusted confidant of president Florentino Perez, Solari will surely have the chance to make a statement to try and secure the permanent job – for which he was an odds-on chance with the bookmakers on Tuesday morning.
What does he bring to Real?
Zidane helped launch the careers of numerous youngsters – Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos to name a couple – and Solari will also be looking to bring in young talent to bolster a team that looks off-colour and lacking in ideas and creativity at present.
For his first training session on Tuesday, he called up five players from his Castilla side (Javi Sanchez, De la Fuente, Alex, Lopez and Fran García), while he might also be looking to promote Brazilian starlet Vinicius Junior, who has been faring well since his arrival in the Merengues’ B team.
Spanish media describe Solari as a conservative coach with a keen eye for detail and very respectful of the system and philosophy that he wants to instil. He interchanges similar modules like 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1, adapting his line-up in function of the opposition.
At the centre of his project is the employment of attacking-minded full-backs such as Marcelo and Caravajal, as well as a dynamic forward that functions less as a targetman and more as a false nine.
Solari also insisted on training closer to the press balcony at Madrid’s Valdebebas training centre – in contrast with Lopetegui’s wishes of being further away from the view of the media.
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