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13th Jun 2018

Cesc Fabregas jokes Julen Lopetegui’s dismissal might help his selection hopes

Fabregas is due to be part of the BBC punditry team in Russia

Simon Lloyd

The drama has already started over in Russia, a day before a ball’s been kicked

On the eve of the tournament, Spain have decided to sack manager Julen Lopetegui – news which was confirmed via a press conference from their training base in Krasnodar on Wednesday.

Luis Rubiales, the Spanish FA’s newly appointed president, is said to have been angered by the news that Lopetegui was set to replace Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid boss next season. This was confirmed on Tuesday, with Rubiales said to have only been made aware of the development minutes before it was publicly announced.

The Spanish football federation (RFEF) explained it had dismissed the 51-year-old because the negotiations with the European champions occurred “without any information to the RFEF”.

Spain’s opening World Cup game comes on Friday when they take on Iberian neighbours Portugal in Sochi. Drawn in Group B, they will also face Iran and Morocco.

One of the more high-profile omissions from Lopetegui’s squad was Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, who will form part of the punditry team for the BBC’s coverage of the tournament.

Hearing the news from the Spanish camp, Gary Lineker tweeted it would give the former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder something to talk about in the studio as he makes his punditry debut.

Quoting Lineker’s tweet, Fabregas went one stage further, jokingly (we hope) suggesting Lopetegui’s dismissal may see him receive a late call-up to the squad.

‘Wait, maybe I get a call up now,’ he tweeted.

Lopetegui’s dismissal will almost certainly have an unsettling effect on Spain’s preparations for the tournament, but at least one Spaniard seems to have a positive outlook.

Lopetegui took over the position as the Spanish national team boss in 2016. He had previously coached the country’s Under 21s team and also been manager at FC Porto for two years. Now removed from his position, reports on Wednesday morning suggested Spain’s Under-21 coach Albert Celades would be an option to step in for the World Cup. Former Real captain Fernando Hierro, now Spain’s sporting director, is also said to be in the frame.