Spain sack head coach Julen Lopetegui on eve of World Cup; Fernando Hierro takes top job
Written by: Rohan Philip
The Spaniard reportedly agreed to take over at Real Madrid next season without the knowledge of the Spanish FA
In a shocking turn of events, Spain have sacked Julen Lopetegui as manager of the national team on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup set to begin in Russia on Thursday. They have also confirmed that Sporting Director Fernando Hierro will take charge of the senior team as the new head coach, for the duration of the tournament.
The dramatic news comes after European champions Real Madrid announced yesterday that Lopetegui would take over the hot-seat at the Santiago Bernabeu next season, following Zinedine Zidane’s departure. The Frenchman won three consetutive Champions League titles during his time in-charge of Los Blancos.
The club released a statement on Tuesday on their official website announcing that Lopetegui will join as the new head coach of the first-team after Spain’s participation in the World Cup, on a three-year deal.
The announcement was followed by reports of the Spanish FA and its President, Luis Rubiales, not having taken the decision and the way in which it was carried out lightly, coming as it did a mere 29 hours before the World Cup is due to-kick-off. Rubiales was said to have felt “betrayed” that he was informed of the decision a mere five minutes before Madrid's official announcement.
The former Hamilton Academical player, Rubiales, who was supposed to be at the 2026 FIFA Congress flew down to Spain’s training base to address the issue. “We have decided to fire the national coach. What we have achieved in getting here is due in great part to him and we must thank him and wish him luck."
"The Spanish national team is the team of all the Spaniards. We only found out just five minutes before that he was leaving for Madrid. There is a way that you must act. Julen has worked in a great way with the team, but we cannot accept how he has acted in this case.”, said Rubiales in a statement.
Lopetuegui is reported to have told his players of his decision on Tuesday night prior to training. The Spanish players appealed to the FA to keep the 51-year-old on as coach of the team in the interest of continuity, but their cries fell on deaf ears as Rubiales carried out the sacking, leaving Spain without a manager just a day before their first game against Portugal.
It must recollected that Lopetegui was held in high regard by his bosses at the Spanish FA for the work that he had done with the team since taking over from Vicente del Bosque two years ago. Infact, the 51-year-old had only recently signed a contract extension, which would have seen him continue with La Roja through to Euro 2020.
“We are going to touch as little as possible. We are working on it. When we know we will tell you. “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. 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," said the FA chief.
Rubiales also accepted that he would be on the receiving end of criticism following him missing the vote for the hosts of the 2026 World Cup, stating that action had to be taken to rectify the situation.
All eyes will be on the Spaniards as they walk out onto the Fischt Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Published: Wed Jun 13, 2018 05:55 PM IST