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- Spain has sacked Julen Lopetegui.
- The decision to fire Lopetegui comes one day before the 2018 FIFA World Cup begins, and two days before Spain takes on Portugal in a huge Group B match.
- The Spanish FA felt Lopetegui acted unprofessionally for agreeing a deal to join Real Madrid after the World Cup ends in July – so it fired him.
- Read all of Business Insider’s World Cup coverage here.
Spain has stunned the soccer world by sacking its manager Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The World Cup kicks off on Thursday when host nation Russia plays Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. As Spain, one of the favourites to win the competition, takes on Portugal in a Group B match on Friday, the timing of the decision to fire its coach is shocking.
“We have to decided to fire the national coach,” Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales said in a statement, according to The Guardian.
Lopetegui has been sacked because he is set to join Real Madrid in a three-year deal that was made public earlier this week. Rubiales believes Lopetegui has acted unprofessionally.
Rubiales said: “The Spanish national team is the team of all the Spaniards. We only found out just five minutes before [the Real deal was made public] that he was leaving for Madrid. There is a way that you must act, Julen has worked in a great way with the team, but we cannot accept how he has acted in this case.”
The decision to remove Lopetegui appears to be at odds with how senior members of the national team feel. Sky Sports journalist and Spanish soccer expert Guillem Balague said Spain captain Sergio Ramos was in favour of Lopetegui staying in charge.
According to Rubiales, “footballers will do everything they can to take the national side to the further it can go”. But did not want to get involved in their position in the internal debate (Real players, specially Sergio Ramos, defended Lopetegui to stay)
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) June 13, 2018
Rubiales does not fear a backlash from players and believes they are still committed to the World Cup. According to The Guardian, he said: “I have spoken with the players and I can guarantee they will do everything, along with the new coach, to take the team as far as possible.”
But now Rubiales must find a new coach just two days before the team begins its World Cup campaign, and it is unclear whether he even has a replacement in mind. “We are going to touch as little as possible. We are working on it. When we know we will tell you.”
Lopetegui leaves his managerial post unbeaten. He managed the Spain team 20 times and won 14 matches, drawing the other six games.