Spain have sacked their manager, Julen Lopetegui, just two days before their vital World Cup match against group and Iberian rivals Portugal. His sacking is a result of his appointment as the man to succeed Zinedine Zidane of manager of Real Madrid. Former Spain international and Real Madrid player, Fernando Hierro, has been announced as Lopetegui’s successor and will lead La Roja in Russia.
This crisis started on Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that Lopetegui would succeed Zidane as the new Real Madrid manager, a week after the Frenchman resigned after completing an unprecedented third consecutive Champions League victory. Lopetegui’s appointment was met with surprise. He had not only signed a new contract with Spain on 22nd May, but there was no mention of Madrid’s pursuit of him in any mainstream Spanish media. News quickly broke that Real Madrid announced the appointment after, allegedly, members of the Spain squad not part of Madrid “clique” were informed.
However, it was announced this morning that Spain’s newly-appointed football federation president, Luis Rubiales, had sacked Lopetegui after finding out the fate of his coach a mere five minutes before the official announcement. As a result of this lack of communication Rubiales stamped down his authority and terminated his contract. This move is now being casted as a power-play intended to assert his dominance within Spanish football and act as a warning to Real Madrid, Spain’s most powerful club, not to mess with the national team.
In the wake of these events, rumours of a rift between the Madrid players and the rest of the Spain squad have persisted in the media, including reports that Sergio Ramos pleaded that Lopetegui be reinstated.
Since the sacking, former Spain international and Sporting Director for Spain, Fernando Hierro, has been announced as Lopetegui’s successor. A relatively inexperienced appointment, Hierro has only had managerial experience at Real Oviedo in Spain’s second division. However, he has been Sporting Director for the national team since 2017 and therefore represents the safest option as Spain attempt to steady the ship before the tournament begins.
With just two days before the start of their World Cup campaign, Spain are left in an extraordinary set of circumstances. Nouse Sport had tipped Spain to go out early, even before this news broke citing their lack of pace and similarly their lack of orthodox wingers rounding off a lethargic attacking line-up. But with this recent news it now seems even more plausible that that might not get out of the group. With Morocco’s young and hungry squad ready to pounce, boasting some very good players including Mehdi Benatia of Juventus, Amine Harit of Schalke, Achraf Hakimi of Real Madrid.
Spain’s opening World Cup match kicks off at 19:00 BST on Friday, 15th June.