Spain finds itself without a coach after the country’s soccer federation ousted Julen Lopetegui just two days before the start of its World Cup, the New York Times reports.
Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish soccer federation, said at a news conference Wednesday that he had no choice but to remove Lopetegui, 51, after learning a day earlier that he had agreed to succeed Zinedine Zidane as the coach of Real Madrid. Rubiales added that Lopetegui’s actions were done in secret without informing his employer. Fernando Hierro, the national team’s technical director, will step in for Lopetegui as head of the Spanish side.
“The negotiation occurred without the federation having any information,” Rubiales said from the team’s training facility in Krasnodar, in southern Russia. Reports suggested he had been informed of the news just minutes before it was made public. “We have a way of behaving that needs to be adhered to.”
A contingent of senior players from the Spanish squad, including Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and David Silva, reportedly met with Rubiales and urged him to “swallow his pride” and let Lopetegui remain as coach to avoid disrupting the team’s preparation. But Rubiales held fast, saying the federation has been forced to make this decision.
“The federation cannot be kept outside the negotiations for one of its employees,” he said. “You cannot do things like that, just five minutes before the announcement is made. We have been obliged to make this decision.”
Spain, one of the favorites to win the tournament, will meet Portugal Friday in opening match.