Spain’s loss is Real Madrid’s gain.
Julen Lopetegui may have cried as they revealed the pain of being sacked by Spain on the eve of a World Cup but he could well endear himself Madridistas before the summer is over.
Former club President, Ramon Calderon, has revealed that Los Blancos’ new gaffer was the man who invited Neymar to train with Real Madrid when the Brazilian was just 14-years-old.
The PSG forward spent a month training with Real Madid’s youth team in 2006 with Lopetegui saying at the time: “He will be one of the world’s best players.”
Lopetegui, then working as head of the club’s international scouting department, had spotted the Brazilian teenager at a youth tournament in South America.
He brought him to the Spanish capital for where he impressed coaches with his electric dribbling and natural flair.
Real couldn’t keep hold of him though as Neymar’s family opted for a return to Brazil and Santos.
However, the month in Madrid significantly improved his profile and set him on the road to superstardom.
“He knows the market very well,” Calderon told SunSport. “He has been doing this all his life.”
And Neymar wasn’t Lopetegui’s only find.
In 2006, the 51-year-old told Calderon about a promising striker he had found in Argentina.
“He would be perfect for Real,” Lopetegui said.
A few weeks later, Calderon paid £10million for a 20-year-old Gonzalo Higuain, who would go on to score 107 goals in 190 league games and help the club to three La Liga titles.
Lopetegui’s previous links to Neymar could help Real sign the 26-year-old superstar.
The Champions League winners have long been linked with the ex-Barcelona forward and perhaps their latest managerial appointment is the first step towards making the idea of ‘Neymar the Galactico’ a reality.