Real Madrid announced Tuesday that Spain coach Julen Lopetegui will replace Zinedine Zidane as head coach after FIFA World Cup 2018.
Lopetegui is in Russia with the Spain squad, where he will oversee their challenge but will then leave his post with the national team and take over at the Santiago Bernabeu, per Marca.
The 51-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the European champions, per the Guardian.
Zidane's resignation came as a big shock, as he had just led Real Madrid to a third consecutive UEFA Champions League triumph. However, Lopetegui's appointment is another surprise from Los Blancos, particularly as he only signed a new deal to remain in charge of Spain until 2020 in May, per BBC Sport.
The timing is also unexpected as Spain kick off their World Cup campaign on Friday when they take on Portugal at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia.
Dermot Corrigan at ESPN FC highlighted how much of a surprise the announcement is:
Lopetegui took over Spain in July 2016 after Vicente del Bosque retired from the role. He has previously coached Spain's youth sides and had two years in charge of Porto.
Squawka Football showed his record with Spain:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Spain are on the longest active unbeaten run of any international side: WWDWWDWWDWWWWWWDDWDW They have scored in each of their 20 matches under Julen Lopetegui. 🇪🇸 Here's why the new Real Madrid manager's current side are a must-watch at the #WorldCup https://t.co/nV8cvo7dc3
Lopetegui's side qualified for the World Cup by topping their group with nine wins out of 10. They also scored 36 goals, and their form means they are one of the favourites ahead of the tournament in Russia.
Yet the Spain coach was not in the frame for the Real Madrid post, as shown by Spanish football journalist Tom Allnutt:
Sports writer Andy West said it's impossible to predict how he will fare at Real Madrid:
Lopetegui will take over a Real Madrid side who have dominated in Europe but finished a distant 17 points behind champions Barcelona in La Liga last season.
Real Madrid have won La Liga just once in the last six years, which for a club of their stature and spending, is a poor return despite their European success.
The club also look set for an interesting summer with star man Cristiano Ronaldo's future uncertain. The Portugal international is angry at the club for their latest "derisory" contract offer, per Jesus Sanchez at Marca.
Lopetegui will have his work cut out at Real Madrid, where standards are high and patience tends to be short with managers unless they deliver instant success.
Before then he must focus on the World Cup, and there will be increased scrutiny on Spain following the announcement, which will not help their cause, per Corrigan:
If Spain fail to impress at the World Cup, then Lopetegui will head to Real Madrid under a cloud that will make an already difficult job even harder.