The Spanish national team has been plunged into crisis after the coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked just two days before their opening World Cup game against Portugal in Sochi, with director of football Fernando Hierro named as his replacement,National Daily learnt.
The president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, insisted that he had little choice but terminate Lopetegui’s contract as a matter of principle after the coach negotiated with Real Madrid behind their back.
The sacking comes in response to the news, released on Tuesday afternoon, that Lopetegui had agreed to take over at Real Madrid when the World Cup ends.
That came as a huge surprise across Spain – including at the Federation. Neither the players nor Hierro nor the president knew of the decision until moments before it was made public. Rubiales said that he had received a phone call from Madrid five minutes before they issued a statement announcing the appointment.
He flew from Moscow to Krasnodar urgently on Tuesday night, leaving the Fifa congress to head to the national team’s HQ to discuss how best to resolve the situation. Just after 1 pm on Wednesday afternoon, after discussions with the players, he announced the decision to sack the coach, describing it as an “obligation” on a “sad day”.