Spain Sacks Lopetegui Two Days Before Clash With Portugal

  • Appoints Hierro as caretaker manager

Spain has sacked Head Coach Julen Lopetegui after he was named the new Real Madrid boss, two days before its opening World Cup match with Portugal.

Real Madrid announced on Tuesday that Lopetegui would succeed Zinedine Zidane at the Bernabeu on a three-year deal.

The Spanish football federation (RFEF) said it had dismissed the 51-year-old because the negotiation occurred “without any information to the RFEF”.

Spain sporting director Fernando Hierro will take charge for the World Cup.

The former Real Madrid and Bolton Wanderers defender is in his second spell as sporting director, having returned to the role in November 2017, six years after leaving the position.

The tournament starts today in Russia.

RFEF President, Luis Rubiales, who was told of Lopetegui’s new role with Real Madrid five minutes before it was announced, said he had found himself in “a very difficult situation”.

“I know there’s going to be criticism whatever I do,” he added.

“I’m sure this will, in time, make us stronger. I admire Julen very much, I respect him very much. He seems a top trainer and that makes it harder to make the decision.

“You can’t do things this way, two or three days before the World Cup. We have been compelled to make this decision.”

Lopetegui became Spain manager in 2016 following Vicente del Bosque’s retirement, and remained unbeaten through his reign.

Spain won 14 of 20 games with Lopetegui in charge, drawing the remaining six.

According to reports in Spain, Rubiales was incensed when he discovered Lopetegui had agreed a deal with Madrid.

He left a FIFA Congress meeting in Moscow early in order to return to Spain’s base in Krasnodar.

It has been claimed senior players – including captain Sergio Ramos – fought for Lopetegui to remain in charge for the duration of the World Cup. Spain begins her World Cup campaign against Portugal on Friday.

Meanwhile, former Real Madrid and national team captain Fernando Hierro has been appointed as the new manager to replace Lopetegui.

Hierro who was already a director with RFEF has been drafted in to take control of the team at short notice as a result. There was initial speculation that Albert Celades could be placed in charge for at least the opening game.

Hierro faced the media at a press conference yesterday evening, before leading his first training session and later take charge of his game tomorrow.

The 50-year-old won three Champions League titles during his playing days with Real and represented Spain at World Cups in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002. In the latter, he was named in the All-Star team of the tournament, despite Spain’s quarter final exit against South Korea.