Spain sack national team manager Julen Lopetegui 48 hours before their World Cup campaign kicks off

SPAIN have sacked their national team coach Julen Lopetegui just two days before they start  their World Cup campaign in anger at the fact that he took on the job of becoming Real Madrid's next coach without informing the football association.


At the end of the just-concluded season, former world footballer of the year Zinedine Zidane stepped down as the Real Madrid manager, sparking the search for a replacement. After several weeks of scouting, the Madrid giants opted for Mr Lopetegui, 51, who is currently Spain's national team manager and with his squad in Russia.


On Friday, Spain open their World Cup account against Portugal at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi on the black Sea coast in southwestern Russia. Mr Lopetegui had been training with the Spanish national team in Krosnador when Real Madrid announced his appointment and immediately the news broke, the Spanish FA reacted.


Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish FA, said it was a complicated situation but one that he felt compelled to make. After guiding Spain easily through qualification to the World Cup finals, Lopetegui had agreed a new contract up until Euro 2020 in May and the FA was surprised that he had been talking to Madrid when they had a long-term agreement in place.


Mr Rubiales said: "I very much admire Julen and respect him greatly. He seems to be a top coach and that has made it more difficult to make this decision.


"To win is very important and to have the best coach very important but, above everything, is acting in the right way. Maybe this is tough now but in the end, it will make us stronger."


Madrid announced that it had convinced Mr Lopetegui to leave his position as Spain's national manager after the tournament is over to take up a three-year deal with the La Liga giants. However, Rafael del Amo, the Spanish FA's vice president said that they were very disappointed by the timing of Madrid taking the national coach and predicted further negative fallout should Spain not now win the World Cup.


Mr Rubiales added: "The federation cannot be left outside the negotiation of one of its employees and find out just five minutes before a public announcement. If anybody wants to talk to one of our employees, they have to speak to us, too.


"That is basic, as this is the team of all Spaniards. The national team is the most important team we have and the World Cup is the biggest competition of all."


Messrs Rubiales and Lopetegui were set to give a news conference from the national team's camp in Krasnodar today but that is now not going to happen. Ex-Spain and Real Madrid defender Fernando Hierro is also with the team in Russia as sporting director and has now taken over as head coach of the Spanish national side.


Mr Del Amo added: "This is not the moment and Lopetegui will know that. It is a bit offside and he should have been focused on where he is, there is a lot on the line."