Santiago Solari will take temporary charge of Real Madrid for the first time on Wednesday as they travel to face third-tier Melilla in the Copa del Rey – and he has not ruled out landing the job full-time.
Manager of Real Madrid B, Solari has been handed the first-team reins on an interim basis as the club seek a replacement for , who was sacked on Monday after less than five months in charge.
Solari, a former Real midfielder, led training on Tuesday as speculation over who will be appointed as Lopetegui’s permanent successor continues.
Ex-Spain boss Lopetegui lost his job after a run of five defeats in seven games, culminating in a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of El Clasico rivals Barcelona on Sunday which leaves Los Blancos ninth in La Liga.
The likes of former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, ex-Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino have all been linked to the vacancy, while Solari could yet land the post full-time.
Spanish league rules mean the 42-year-old Argentinian can only manage as an interim boss for two weeks.
His audition for the long-term role begins with the seemingly simple task of dispatching Melilla, who sit second in Segunda Division B Group 4, and he refused to rule himself out of the runningon the eve of the contest.
“I’m going to go into things positively and do everything I can. It’s a great opportunity,” he said at his pre-match press conference when asked if he saw himself as a temporary solution.
“In life in general and in this profession we are all just here passing through. Everything goes very quickly, the important thing is the day to day, it is the same for players as well.
“They have different processes and different rhythms, the important thing is you go into every game and do good things in every minute of every game.”
Lopetegui succeeded Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid coach – the former France midfielder having also managed the club’s B-team before being promoted from within.
Zidane left in the summer after winning three Champions League titles in a row and Solari is not ready to draw comparisons just yet.
“With respect to Zinedine Zidane, he is one of the greatest things we have had at the club,” he said.
“All of the adjectives you can think of are not enough to describe Zizou, he is very calm, a great coach and nobody can be compared to him.”
After taking his first training session Solari got the feeling he is about to start working with a squad wanting to set the record straight.
“They are a bit hurt,” he added.
“They really want to change things and turn things around, it is a group of hard workers and players who have won a lot of things for this club.
“It is not the easiest situation but I saw them in a mood to turn things around and change things.”
Melilla will be massive underdogs heading into the round of 32 clash, but their coach Luis Carrion is targeting more upset for the 19-time Copa del Rey winners.
“I do not want it to look arrogant but our goal is to fight to go through,” he said.
“The draw gave us Madrid and the goal is to beat them – we have to think big. We play against a better team but the idea is not going to change.
“The harder the challenge, the braver we must be. We do not have to be suicidal, but we have to be brave and try to get what we want to happen on the pitch.”