The ex-Real Madrid player has defended former colleague Lopetegui, saying: "It was not easy to come into a team that has won the last three Champions Leagues."
Former Real Madrid star Fernando Hierro gave his thoughts in an interview with Radio Napoli in Italy this Thursday, in which he spoke about life at the Bernabéu post Ronaldo and ex-Spain colleague and recently sacked Madrid coach, Julen Lopetegui.
Hierro was Spain’s director of football when he was unexpectedly cast into the role of head coach for this summer's World Cup, after Lopetegui was fired for announcing he had accepted the Real Madrid job just days before the start of the tournament.
In hindsight it now may seem like an ill-fated decision for Lopetegui, who was relieved of his duties at the Bernabéu at the end of October after overseeing Real Madrid’s worst start to a season in its history. But former colleague Hierro believes he is an excellent coach, despite his misfortunes during his brief spell at Madrid.
"It is very difficult to talk about a colleague by profession, whom I spent a lot of time working with,” Hierro told Radio Napoli. “Possibly, like every coach, he needed time, tranquillity. It was not easy to come into a team that has won the last three Champions Leagues. Of course, Julen is a great coach and I do not have any doubt about that."
Aside from the difficulties of taking over a team on the back of three consecutive Champions League titles, Lopetegui also had his work cut out being the first coach to direct a Madrid team post-Cristiano Ronaldo, without whom, Hierro pointed out, they have naturally found it difficult to adapt.
"It's always difficult to live without a player and a great person like Ronaldo. I worked with him and I know he's a guy with extraordinary performance. He scores 40-50 goals per year and it's hard to replace him,” he said.
“If you have had him for so long, then it is normal to miss him. He has a winning mentality, and that is also transmitted to his colleagues. His adaptation to Serie A does not surprise me at all.”