Spain have sacked their manager 24 hours before the World Cup starts
Julen Lopetegui has sensationally been given the boot - so what happens next?
We’ve had our first World Cup shock - and the tournament hasn’t even started yet.
Spain have sensationally sacked their manager Julen Lopetegui just 24 hours before the tournament begins after he agreed to take over at Real Madrid at the end of the tournament, without informing the Spanish football federation (RFEF).
Real Madrid announced the appointment of the 51-year-old on Tuesday - which in itself was a shock, given that he had not been considered even remotely in the running for the job at the Bernabeu - but the RFEF revealed that his negotiations had taken place “without any information to the RFEF”.
“We have to decided to fire the national coach,” explained the RFEF president Luis Rubiales.
“What we have achieved in getting here is due in great part to him, and we must thank him and wish him luck. The Spanish national team is the team of all the Spaniards.
“We only found out just five minutes before the announcement that he was leaving for Madrid. There is a way that you must act. Julen has worked in a great way with the team, but we cannot accept how he has acted in this case.”
The Spanish players are understood to be against the decision, which will have thrown their plans into disarray ahead of their opening game against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal on Friday - the match will be arguably the hardest of their group, which also contains Morocco and Iran.
It’s now been confirmed that Spain sporting director, the former Real Madrid and Bolton Wanderers defender Fernando Hierro will take charge for the World Cup.
Lopetegui has been in charge of the Spanish national side for nearly two years, taking over in July 2016. Prior to this, he was coach at Porto for two years before being sacked after failing to claim any silverware despite winning 53 of his 77 games in charge. His appointment as Spanish manager was based on the success he had at younger age levels with Spain; he claimed the 2012 Under-19 European Championship and the 2013 Under-21 European Championship with those respective sides.
With his only other club experience other than Porto coming with Rayo Vallecano in 2003, where he won only 2 out of 11 games in the second tier, he was a truly unexpected choice to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.
Nonetheless, he leaves his post with Spain with an unbeaten record, having won 14 of 20 games, drawing the other 6 as they topped their World Cup qualification group with 28 points from 10 games.