Julen Lopetegui has been fired by the Spanish national team Wednesday, days after the manager agreed to join Real Madrid. The severance occurs less than 48 hours away from their opening World Cup match against Portugal.
Within hours of Lopetegui’s Real Madrid appointment, Bayern Munich midfielder and Spanish international, Thiago Alcantara, has been rumored to be listed as a target by Lopetegui, following him to the Spanish capital. It’s not set in stone as to weather the ex-Spain boss will make an official offer, but if Thiago is heading out, Lopetegui wants in.
According to Mundo Deportivo, the fair portion of Real Madrid players heading to Russia in Spain’s colors, six out of 23 to be exact, does not help the circumstance that Bayern are in. Barcelona have also been linked to Thiago. Even then, Die Roten would receive a minimum of €70 million ($82.5 million).
A previous report from Mundo Deportivo stated that the ex-boss recently renewed is contract in May with the Spanish national team until 2020. Lopetegui, 51, signing for Madrid must’ve been a surprise for the Royal Spanish Football Federation, which is a surprise in itself, knowing that Real Madrid signed Lopetegui as a player in 1988.
The former goalkeeper played for Real Madrid Castilla and Las Palmas before he made it to the first team in 1989. The 6-foot-2 Lopetegui also played for Barcelona between 1994-1997, but is most recognizable from his time with Logroñés and Rayo Vallencano, making a combined 219 appearances for the two clubs.
Lopetegui’s release becomes active immediately and has left Russia earlier this morning.
The firing of Lopetegui gives no time for the Royal Spanish Football Federation to conduct a precise search for a new manager. They will appoint Fernando Hierro in charge, the national team’s sporting director. The remaining coaching staff spoke at a press conference earlier today.
My job is just the match against Portugal, and then the next match and then the next match. We don’t think about what’s coming in the future or beyond the World Cup. [When asked if he was disappointed with Lopetegui’s behaviour] “I’ll be honest with you: it would be a big mistake if we think of the past rather than the future. My head is very relaxed and I only have to face what’s coming in the future. The World Cup only comes every four years so we need to focus.”
Fernando Hierro is a former defender who also played for Real Madrid. He made 439 appearances for Los Galacticos between 1989-2003 at center back and central midfield. Hierro also scored 29 goals in 89 appearances for the Spanish national team.
Alongside Portugal, Spain are accompanied by Morocco and Iran in Group B. Neither of these three teams will be a pushover. Not to mention, Spain are looking redeem themselves after a dismal 2014 World Cup performance, where they failed to reach the knockout stage in Brazil. La Roja must perform without Lopetegui and Bayern fans must hope Thiago finds a new love with the German giants.
“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves or think about other things,” Hierro said. “Our objective is to fight for a World Cup – we’ve been two years preparing for this. We must show maturity.”