Never has a World Cup witnessed such a saga BEFORE a ball was kicked. The departure of Zinedine Zidane from Real Madrid was a surprise to many but it’s not uncommon at Los Blancos. What isn’t common is the under-hand tactics of their approach for Julen Lopetegui, the now, ex-Spain manager.
At 11am on Wednesday morning, Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales announced the decision to dismiss Lopetegui, this is reported to be against the wishes of the playing squad. Yet, is this right to show that national teams shouldn’t be walked over by the ‘bourgeoisie’ status of clubs such as Madrid.
A deal in place for the leader of La Roja to be centred in the capital post July, although the Spanish FF had no knowledge of this deal, that was until FIVE MINUTES before the announcement was due to be dropped by Madrid. President Rubiales was notified and it’s safe to say the news went down as flat as your average note heard in the X Factor.
Fast forward to today, Fernando Hierro, played at four World Cups with Spain, Champions League winner with Madrid and one of most surprising members of Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers, was in charge. His debut press conference as interim Spain manager was an hour after Lopetegui’s first in charge of Madrid, football eh?
Now the narrative is duly explained, how do a squad, already embarrassed from their previous World Cup showing and disappointing Euros, react?
Well there is an abundance of leaders and experience from the ‘golden age’ of Spain’s history whilst being world champions in 2010. Seven of the acclaimed squad are going for it in Russia again, but with a perfect preparation tainted with their boss sacked, can they keep focus under a new man?
For many groups of players, probably, but for a richly honoured and successful set of players like this, they can overcome it. The stature and presence of those like Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Cesar Azpilicueta will not let levels drop.
Despite Lopetegui taking four members of staff with him to Madrid, Hierro was the technical director within the Spanish FF and has seen it all for club and country. If anything, this should galvanise the squad even more under the stewardship of one of the most loyal and favoured sons of Spanish football, with their reputations up for debate.
Not forgetting the injection of exuberant fresh faces like Thiago Alcantara, Marco Asensio and Saul Niguez to partner the established members, remember they beat Argentina 6-1, just three months ago. Some will be quick to write them off with this situation having never occurred before, but as shocking as it was, there aren’t many groups who can maintain concentration and excel past it like Spain can.
What better way to do the talking, than on the pitch. First up, a Friday night start to their tournament against European champions Portugal.