New Real-Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui sacked as Spain coach a day before World Cup kicks off.
Spain hastily called a press conference as reports emanated that the head of the Spanish FA, Luis Rubiales, was left outraged by the timing of the announcement.
Following a bizarre morning, during which the Spanish players pleaded with Rubiales for Lopetegui to keep his job, it was decided that the manager’s position had become untenable.
Fernando Hierro, a former Real Madrid player himself, has been confirmed as Lopetegui’s successor for the duration of the tournament. They kick off their bid for glory with a tough opening match against Portugal on Friday night.
‘We thank Julen for all he has done because he is one of the great people responsible for us being in Russia, but we are forced to dismiss him,’ said Rubiales during Wednesday’s press conference.
‘I do not feel betrayed, the problem is how things have been done with the total absence of participation of the Spanish Football Federation, that is something we cannot ignore, Lopetegui is an impeccable professional but the process is important.
‘The negotiations [between Lopetegui and Real Madrid] have occurred without any information to the Spanish FA and we were informed just five minutes before the press release. There’s a way to act that needs to be fulfilled.
‘I took a plane, came back from Moscow, missed the vote on the next World Cup to be here. We had to react, I know that whatever I do I will be criticised, I accept that.
‘To win is very important, to have the best coach very important, but above everything is acting in the right way. Maybe this is tough now, but in the end it will make us stronger.
‘I have spoken with the players and I can guarantee they will do everything, along with the new coach, to take the team as far as possible [at this World Cup].’
SPAIN WORLD CUP FIXTURES
Friday 15 June
Wednesday 20 June
Monday 25 June
SPAIN’S BIZARRE 24 HOURS IN RUSSIA
4pm: Julen Lopetegui is announced as the new Real Madrid manager and it is confirmed he will take over after the World Cup
8.30am: Spain announce they will hold a press conference amid reports Lopetegui’s job is under threat
9.30am: The press conference is delayed by an hour as Spanish FA chiefs attempt to thrash out a solution to the problem
9.45am: Spanish players, led by Sergio Ramos, plead with the head of the Spanish FA, Luis Rubiales, to allow Lopetegui to keep his job
10am: Spanish superfan Manolo ‘el del Bombo’, who bangs the drums in support at matches, storms into the press conference, concerned about his team’s fortunes at the World Cup
10.15am: Reports emanate from Spain that the players have convinced the Spanish FA’s top brass to allow Lopetegui to continue through the World Cup
10.30am: The Spanish FA finally take the stage at their press conference, but there is no sign of Lopetegui
10.35am: Rubiales announces Lopetegui has been relieved of his duties and claims Spain knew of the manager’s move to Real Madrid only five minutes before the club announced it
Wednesday’s press conference was due to start at 9.30am (BST) but was delayed by well over an hour as the Spanish FA’s top brass thrashed out a solution among themselves and the players.
Members of the Spain squad, led by Los Blancos skipper Sergio Ramos, eventually failed in their bid to keep the coach in his role and it was announced shortly after that Lopetegui will indeed leave his current position with immediate effect.
One of Rubiales’ first tasks in his role was to extend Lopetegui’s contract and when the Spain boss reneged by signing a deal with Madrid, the Spanish FA chief was left reeling, feeling he had been played for a fool.
The curious morning had earlier hit new heights when Manolo ‘el del Bombo’, the Spanish superfan who beats his drum with gusto at matches, marched into the press conference, concerned about the future of the national team at this summer’s showpiece.
Lopetegui signed a deal with Spain until 2020 on May 22 but Real Madrid have swooped for his services and he agreed to join the Spanish giants after the Russia tournament.
However, he will now not lead Spain in Russia and the national side must move quickly to appoint his successor.