Spain’s World Cup campaign is already in disarray after manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked – just two days before their opening clash with Portugal.
A news conference was hastily arranged in the wake of Real Madrid’s announcement that Lopetegui would succeed Zinedine Zidane at the Bernabeu next season.
Spanish football federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales was reportedly left seething at the news, prompting him to fire the 51-year-old.
The chaos continued when it was reported U21 boss Albert Celades would take charge of the sinking ship in Russia, only for RFEF director of football Fernando Hierro, a former Real defender, to be officially named as manager an hour later.
Showdown talks between Rubiales, Lopetegui and captains Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Sergio Ramos held up the conference, with the former refusing to bow to his players’ wishes to keep continuity.
“We want to thank Julen for all he’s done and he’s a big reason behind us being in Russia, but we feel obliged to dispense with his services,” said Rubiales.
“The negotiations [between Lopetegui and Real Madrid] have occurred without any information to the Spanish FA and we were informed just five minutes before the press release. There’s a way to act that needs to be fulfilled.
“There has to be a message to all RFEF employees and there are ways of behaving that you need to abide by.”
Lopetegui, who took over as Spain boss in 2016, only recently signed a contract extension with the 2010 world champions. He was unbeaten in his 20 matches in charge, winning 14 and drawing six.
Spain and Portugal are joined by Iran and Morocco in Group B.