Real Madrid have reportedly set their sights on Belgium manager Roberto Martinez, as the hunt for Julen Lopetegui’s replacement continues.

According to a report from The Telegraph, reigning European champions Real Madrid have turned their attention to Belgium boss Roberto Martinez to replace Julen Lopetegui.

Real Madrid sacked Lopetegui earlier this week, following their 5-1 trouncing at the hands of arch-rivals Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the season. And having let go of the Basque coach just 149 days into his tenureLos Blancos appointed former player Santiago Solari as the interim manager and are in search of a new head coach to take over the reins at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte had emerged as Real Madrid’s top target for the vacant managerial spot. The Italian is unattached currently, after he was let go of by the Blues in the summer. However, negotiations with him hit a snag, with the former Juventus and Italy boss ruling himself out of contention for the job.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has also been tipped to return to the Santiago Bernabeu, where he spent three years between 2010 and 2013. While the Portuguese finds his job at Old Trafford under threat, his immediate availability isn’t a guarantee. And with Real Madrid needing to appoint a new manager within two weeks, as per La Liga rules, they have turned their attention towards Martinez.

Next Real Madrid manager? (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Next Real Madrid manager? (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Martinez grew into prominence in England during his time with Swansea City and Wigan Athletic, which earned him a big move to Everton. Things didn’t go all that well for the Spaniard in Merseyside, but he has managed to salvage his reputation since taking over the reins of the Belgium national team in August 2016.

Under the 45-year-old, the Red Devils made it to the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and finished third in the premier footballing event in Russia. The Spaniard has enjoyed an exceptional win percentage of 74.2 with Belgium, having led the team to victories on 23 occasions out of the 31 games he has managed (6D, 2L).

The Royal Belgium Football Association (KBVB) have made it clear that they will not tolerate any illegal approaches from Real Madrid for the former Everton boss. “If a club wanted to hire Mr. Martinez it should first reach an agreement with the Belgian Football Federation,” Stefan Van Loock, a spokesperson for the KBVB, said.

Martinez signed a new two-year contract with Belgium in May earlier this year, but could find the opportunity of managing an elite European club like Real Madrid too hard to turn down. It remains to be seen how this story develops, but the Merengues will need to act quickly, considering that a caretaker manager can only be at the helm for two weeks as per La Liga rules.