Spain’s World Cup campaign is in disarray before it’s even begun after their head coach was sacked for withholding his plans to take the Real Madrid manager’s job
The Spanish Football Association have sacked managed Julen Lopetegui one day before the start of the World Cup in Russia after he withheld the news that he was replacing Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid following the tournament.
Appearing at a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday, new Spanish FA (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales announced that Lopetegui’s behaviour in the build-up to Russia 2018 has been “unacceptable”, having agreed to take over at Madrid upon the conclusion of Spain’s World Cup campaign.
“We have decided to fire the national coach (Lopetegui],” Rubiales said at a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday. “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 (it was announced) 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.”
Rubiales did not name a replacement for Lopetegui with the president promising to “touch as little as possible” to try and create some sort of continuity ahead of Friday’s opening Group B fixture against rivals Portugal. But it’s believed that Spain’s sporting director Fernando Hierro and Spanish Under-21 coach Albert Celades would be in the frame to step in.
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It’s understood that a number of players argued against sacking Lopetegui so close to the tournament – particularly the Real Madrid stars in the squad – but the anger on the Spanish FA’s part – and in particular Rubiales – led to an immediate dismissal.
“Footballers will do everything they can to take the national side to the further it can go,” he added.
Real Madrid first got in contact with Lopetegui on Friday but he left those talks to his agent as he focused on preparing the national team for their first World Cup game, against Portugal, on Friday. After negotiations, he decided on Monday to take the job, but only informed the president of the Spanish FA minutes before Real confirmed his appointment on Tuesday afternoon.
Real chose Tuesday to announce their new manager – rather than waiting until the conclusion of this summer’s tournament in Russia – as one of the non-Real players found out about the news and Lopetegi was concerned it would leak and overshadow Spain’s attempt to win the World Cup. All six of the Real players in the Spanish squad were understood to have known Lopetegui’s plans prior to the official announcement