Crisis befell the Spanish National Men’s Football Team just two days before the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, when their manager Julen Lopetegui was fired by the Spanish Football Federation. The team is now trying to hard to get its act together ahead of what is anticipated to be a tough opening match against Portugal on Friday, the second day of the tournament.
On Tuesday afternoon, Spanish football club Real Madrid had announced in a press conference that Lopetegui would be taking over as the manager of their first team after the conclusion of the World Cup. The termination of Lopetegui’s contract came as a response to the lack of procedure being followed in his appointment at Real Madrid.
Luis Rubiales, the newly elected President of the Spanish Football Federation, alleged that Lopetegui had not followed due procedure in informing the Federation of the talks between him and the Madrid-based club, which is one of the most successful sides in club football in recent years, and has a massive fan following across the world.
According to Rubiales, only a notice of “five minutes” was provided by Real Madrid before they made a public announcement of the appointment. He went on to describe the decision to fire Lopetegui as an “obligation”, noting that negotiations between the manager and the club could not be conducted behind the Federation’s back.
Tough First Contest
The Spanish squad now faces a tough first contest against Portugal in Group B on Friday, the second day of the FIFA World Cup 2018. Lopetegui enjoyed an undefeated run as the manager of Spain ever since he took over from legendary World Cup winning manager Vicente del Bosque after a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign.
Under him, the Spanish team won 14 matches and drew six, scoring 61 times and conceding only 13. A camp within the 23-man squad for the World Cup, led by defender Sergio Ramos, had argued for Lopetegui to not be sacked, but for Rubiales it was a matter of doing things the right way on what he described as a “sad day.”
Former Spanish player Fernando Hierro was appointed as Lopetegui’s replacement on June 13. Hierro faces an uphill task, as a change in philosophy as well as different style of management is sure to introduce some amount of discord and disharmony in the way the team functions during the FIFA World Cup 2018. Spain and Barcelona legend Xavi also questioned the timing of Real Madrid’s move in appointing Lopetegui as manager three days before the World Cup, and only a few weeks after he had penned a long term commitment to the Spanish national team.
It remains to be seen if Spain can live up to the expectations placed on them in the aftermath of this abrupt managerial change. What is certain for now is that a lot of fingers will be pointed at Lopetegui and Real Madrid should La Roja fall short of the mark in Russia.