Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Julen Lopetegui sacked a day before the World Cup starts

David Nugent in Editorial, World Cup 13 Jun 2018

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On Monday, Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui agreed a three-year deal to become the new boss of Real Madrid. It was a surprise appointment, to say the least.

It seemed like a strange move by Lopetegui, who just a few weeks ago agreed to an extension of his existing contract as boss of Spain. To agree a move to Real Madrid and announce it a few days before the World Cup really was unforeseen.

The Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales did not take the decision well and has now sacked the boss. He has revealed the decision was taken as the SFF were not informed of Lopetegui’s discussions with Real Madrid.

Crazy situation ahead of the World Cup

While the World Cup kicks off on Thursday, Spain opens their campaign on Friday night with a vital game against neighbours Portugal. The game is seen by many as a potential decider for who tops the group, even before a ball has been kicked in Russia.

For Spain to sack their head coach in such a situation is simply crazy. Rubiales stated that he felt he had no choice but to sack Lopetegui. According to reports, the players were in favour of Lopetegui keeping his job until after the tournament.

The players were thinking logically. Many bosses announce they are leaving their job before big tournaments. However, it seems it was definitely the non-communication over the Real job that sealed Lopetegui’s fate.

A major distraction

There is always one story at a major championship of a major fallen out in one team’s camp. However, I cannot remember the sacking of a head coach this close to a major international tournament, especially from one of the favourites to win the competition.

There may have been other times it has occurred but has it ever happened to such a big football nation? La Roja could have done without the major distraction.

Four years ago, the then-reigning champions flopped like a wet jellyfish on a mattress in Brazil, failing to make the knockout stages of the competition.

This summer there were high hopes that they could have put right their poor showing right. They have a talented squad with a good mixture of youth and experience.

They also seem to have a boss that knew how to get the best out of his sumptuous resources. He is now gone and it remains to be seen who will take charge of the team.

The likes of former internationals Fernando Hierro and Albert Celades are mooted as possible replacements for the former boss. The SFF need to make a quick decision with the Portugal game looming.

Spain one of the favourites to win the World Cup

Spain heads to Russia as one of the favourites to win the World Cup at 13/2 this summer. Lopetegui’s sacking is likely to lead to a change in those odds though, if only due to the distraction of the players.

La Roja does have a talented squad of players. However, the sacking of their boss this close to a World Cup must have an effect on the player’s mentality.

Lopetegui was reportedly a well-liked boss, so he will be a loss to Spain, as he has done a good job with the national team. Only time will tell whether the Spanish Football Federation has made the right decision.

However, it is unlikely to have a positive effect on the team heading into Friday’s clash with Portugal. There seems to be something in the Iberian water of late. First, we had the crazy events at Portuguese giants Sporting CP, now the Spanish team sacking their head coach. What next?

Were the SFF right to sack Julen Lopetegui so close to the World Cup?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The experienced writer has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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Poor judgements on the part of both Lopetegui and on the part of the Spanish federation. In order to minimize distractions, the federation could have waited until the end of the World Cup, or once Spain was eliminated, which now seems more likely to be an earlier than a later elimination.


I think this move is misguided. Just about national pride but no pragmatism in terms of timing. Whether the move is good or bad will depend on how Spain perform in Russia

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