Sporting Director of Spain’s Football Federation (RFEF) Fernando Hierro has been named the national team’s new coach for the duration of the World Cup in Russia
They broke the mould by winning the European Championship without a striker and now Spain must go one step further and win the World Cup without their manager.
Julen Lopetegui had his Spain contract terminated on Wednesday morning after being announced as Real Madrid’s new head coach on Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday was a wild day in Madrid, where Florentino Perez rang the Spanish FA (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales just five minutes before announcing Lopetegui’s hire. At that point, Rubiales was in Moscow for the Fifa congress but immediately stormed out of his hotel and took a late flight to Spain’s base in the southern city of Krasnodar.
“We thank Julen for all he has done,” said Rubiales on Wednesday, by now somewhat calmer, “but we are forced to dismiss him.”
In 24 hours, Spain had gone from being one of the favourites for the World Cup - a perfectly-balanced squad, a coach the players knew and trusted, the right mix of youth and experience - to being a headless body flailing around Krasnodar, arms waving, everybody staring.
Rubiales’ brief press conference on Wednesday lunchtime was the end point of that decapitation process, and he ended his appearance without naming a permanent replacement for the 53-year-old Lopetegui. Whose head they decide to ultimately plonk on the body may be irrelevant, this is as traumatic a footballing event as you could think of to happen on the eve of the World Cup but particularly so when your first game is on the second day of the tournament against the European Champions. You have to be sure to make this decision and Rubiales certainly seems so, but it doesn’t make him right.
“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.“