Spain sack coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of Fifa World Cup 2018 in Russia
The manager’s appointment by Real Madrid sparks outrage among officials and fans
Spain sacked coach Julen Lopetegui just two days before the team’s opening game against Portugal at the World Cup, Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales confirmed on Wednesday.
In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, Real Madrid named Lopetegui as their next manager to start work after the tournament in Russia, sparking outrage among the federation and Spanish fans at the timing of the announcement.
“We want to thank Julen for all he’s done and he’s a big reason behind us being in Russia, but we feel obliged to dispense with his services,” said Rubiales.
“There has to be a message to all RFEF employees and there are ways of behaving that you need to abide by.”
Lopetegui had signed a contract extension until 2020 just last month and Rubiales is reportedly angry at only being informed of his decision to join Real minutes before the European champions made the announcement public.
Federation sporting director Fernando Hierro was named as Lopetegui’s replacement with Spain due to face European champions Portugal in Sochi on Friday.
Lopetegui was appointed Spain’s coach in July 2016 and never tasted defeat in the job, leading the team through 20 unbeaten games ahead of the World Cup.
Spain were among the favourites to lift the trophy this summer but this astonishing upheaval, so close to the tournament, will surely affect the players.
There were fears his appointment could open up old divisions between the Real Madrid and Barcelona factions in the Spain squad.
For the first time since 2006, there are more players from Madrid in a Spanish squad for a major tournament, with a six-strong Real contingent and just Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets from Barca.
However, according to reports in the Spanish media, the players tried to intervene at the last minute to prevent Rubiales sacking Lopetegui.