Coach of Spain’s national soccer team sacked just before World Cup

Fernando Hierro will replace Julen Lopetegui after the latter announced he would be taking over at Real Madrid after Russia event

Fernando Hierro will be the new coach for the Spanish national soccer team.
Fernando Hierro will be the new coach for the Spanish national soccer team.Javier Etxezarreta (EFE)
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The head of the Spanish Royal Football Federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, announced on Wednesday that national soccer team coach Julen Lopetegui has been fired from his role, a day after the Real Madrid team announced it had signed him as its manager for the next season.

RFEF sporting director Fernando Hierro will replace Lopetegui. Hierro is scheduled to give a news conference at 5.30pm (Spanish time) at the team’s headquarters in Krasnodar. He will then head his first training session, which will also be the last before traveling to Sochi on Thursday and facing Portugal on Friday.

News that Lopetegui would be joining Real Madrid following the Russia event had left many players indignant and perplexed, particularly those who do not play for the capital’s team. After consulting with management and former players, Rubiales believed that for the health of the team it was best to let the head coach go.

The players will do everything in their reach to win the World Cup RFEF Head Luis Rubiales

The announcement comes just three days before Spain plays its first match in the upcoming Russian World Cup 2018.

The news still came as a shock to the Spain team. Speaking to the press shortly after 12pm CET, Rubiales – who was not accompanied by Lopetegui – said “we have been forced to dispense with the national coach.”

He continued, saying that “while he was in the team, Julen has worked incredibly well,” going on to describe the “situation that I have found” as being “very complex.”

He stated that the team was in a “very complicated” situation, but that he “trusted the players.”

Rubiales went on to say that he had heard the news “five minutes before Real Madrid announced it.” He called on the team to say nothing until the national side arrived in Krasnodar. “But this wasn’t possible.”

Luis Manuel Rubiales informs the media of the decision to dismiss Julen Lopetegui as coach of the Spanish national side.
Luis Manuel Rubiales informs the media of the decision to dismiss Julen Lopetegui as coach of the Spanish national side.Getty Images (Getty Images)

“The RFEF cannot stay on the margin of the contractual situation of one of its workers,” he said. “We have been obliged to act.”

Until Tuesday, Spain, together with Germany and Brazil, had been one of the favorites to win the World Cup. According to Rubiales, the only way to protect the team’s chances of winning was to fire a man who had lost the trust of his players. Team captain Sergio Ramos from Madrid is the only player to have insisted Lopetegui stay on.

He went on to state that the team “would do everything possible to achieve the best result.”

“The players will do everything with their reach to win the World Cup. But the situation is very difficult. It is very complex. This is not the best solution but in life you cannot escape your responsibilities,” said Rubiales.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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