Julen Lopetegui, Spain manager, sacked on eve of World Cup

Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as manager of the Spanish national team. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as manager of the Spanish national team. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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The head of the Spanish Football Association has pointed the finger of blame at Real Madrid as the nation’s World Cup preparations descended into turmoil following the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament.

Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales acted swiftly to remove Lopetegui - who it was announced on Tuesday will take over at Real Madrid from next season.

Real’s announcement said he would begin his new role following the World Cup, but Rubiales was unhappy to have only been made aware of the news five minutes before the Champions League winners made the news official.

On Wednesday, Spain delayed a press conference at the Krasnodar Stadium by well over an hour before Rubiales addressed the media.

“We have been forced to dispense with the national coach, we wish him the best of luck” he said.

“I don’t want to get into how Real Madrid should go about things. The Spanish team is the team of all Spain.

• READ MORE - The Spanish FA president who sacked Lopetegui once played for Hamilton

“If it had been up to Julen it wouldn’t have happened in this way and I wouldn’t have found out five minutes beforehand.

“The negotiation occurred without the RFEF having any information. (We were told) just five minutes before the press release. We have a way of behaving that needs to be adhered to.

“Obviously there was some sort of problem with communication but we can’t be expected to find out about something like this five minutes (before the announcement) and not take the necessary decisions.”

Rubiales would not be drawn on who would succeed Lopetegui - who did not lose any of his 20 games as national manager - but seemed to suggest a new man could be in place as early as later on Wednesday.

“I don’t want to get into names but we’ll make an announcement shortly,” he added.

“As of this afternoon, with the new coach and his staff, we’ll move forward. I feel very close to the players and to Julen.

“I have spoken to them and I can assure you that the players and the the new coaching staff will do everything possible to lead the team as far as possible, but it’s a complicated situation.”

Spain Under-21 manager Albert Celades, who is part of the coaching staff with the senior squad in Russia, and Spain’s director of football Fernando Hierro are two of the possible replacements as head coach heading into the World Cup.

Fernando Hierro will lead Spain at the World Cup having been announced as Lopetegui’s replacement.

Former Spain and Real Madrid captain Hierro, who moves across from his role of director of football, will be presented to the press at the Krasnodar Stadium later on Wednesday before getting to work in his new post.

“Fernando Hierro will assume the position of national coach in the World Championship of Russia and will appear before the media accompanied by the president of the RFEF, Luis Rubiales,” a short statement on the federation’s website read.

“Next, he will direct his first training and on Friday he will debut in Sochi at the match of Spain against Portugal.”