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13th Jun 2018

Reports claim Spain could sack manager Julen Lopetegui on eve of World Cup

An incredible story from Russia

Simon Lloyd

As far as preparation for the World Cup goes, things could be going better for Spain

Just a couple of days before the tournament’s opening game in Moscow, it was announced on Tuesday that their coach Julen Lopetegui would be replacing Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid manager next season.

The news came as a surprise to many and is also said to have angered senior figures within the Spanish FA, particularly newly appointed president Luis Rubiales, who is said to have been furious at the way the situation was handled. According to The Independent, a press conference scheduled by the RFEF on Wednesday will clarify Lopetegui’s future – with one possibility being that he could be removed from his position.

Lopetegui was named Real Madrid's next manager on Tuesday

It was reported on Tuesday evening that Rubiales felt ‘betrayed’ by Lopetegui, only finding out about his move to Real minutes before the announcement was made public. He had been in Moscow ahead of Fifa’s congress on Wednesday, but is said to have left the Russian capital late on Tuesday night to go to Spain’s World Cup training base in Krasnodar.

Lopetegui took over the position as Spain manager in 2016. He had previously coached the country’s Under 21s team and also been manager at FC Porto for two years. Should he be sacked, it’s thought Spain’s Under-21 coach Albert Celades would be an option to step into the position. Former Real captain Fernando Hierro, now Spain’s sporting director, is also said to be in the frame.

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.

Reports from Spain suggest the country’s players are against the idea of Lopetegui being dismissed. If he is, it’s set to be one of the most remarkable stories to come out of the tournament before the action in Russia has even started.