Sacked Lopetegui thankful for Real Madrid 'opportunity'

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The former Spain boss was dismissed in the wake of the 5-1 El Clasico defeat to Barcelona at Camp Nou

Julen Lopetegui has paid tribute to the Real Madrid fans in the wake of his dismissal as manager on Monday.

The 52-year-old was officially dismissed following the 5-1 Clasico demolition at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday, although there were reports the decision had been made after they lost 2-1 to Levante last weekend.

Madrid released a statement to confirm Lopetegui's exit in which they appeared to criticise the former Spain boss for failing to make the most of a talented squad, saying "there is a great disproportion between the quality of the squad, which has eight players nominated for the Ballon d'Or, and the results obtained so far [this season]".

However, Lopetegui refused to hit back at the Madrid board and instead thanked everyone associated with the club.

"After the decision taken by the Real Madrid board of directors, I want to thank the club for the opportunity they gave me," he said in a brief statement provided to EFE.

"Thank you to the players for their effort and their work, as well as to each and every one of the club's employees, for their good treatment during this time.

"And, of course my gratitude to the fans for their backing. I send them my best wishes for the rest of the season."

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Santi Solari, the Real Madrid Castilla boss, will serve as interim coach of the first team while a long-term successor to Lopetegui is sought.

Antonio Conte is the favourite for the job, but there are reports of discrepancies between the former Chelsea and Juventus head coach's demands and Madrid's offer.

The club will have just two weeks to name a permanent manager, though, due to La Liga rules.