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Home Sport Football European

Julen Lopetegui sacked by Spain after agreeing to take Real Madrid post

Spain have sacked Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup after he held "secret meetings" with Real Madrid to become their new manager.

Lopetegui yesterday was confirmed as the new Madrid boss on a three-year deal after the World Cup is over, but he will now be free to take over immediately.

Reports suggest federation president Luis Rubiales was outraged by Lopetegui's decision to leave, as well as the clandestine meetings the two parties had.

It is also believed that the majority of the Spanish players no longer wanted Lopetegui in charge following his decision to leave.

The decision was announced by Rubiales at a press conference at the Krasnodar Stadium, just two days before beginning their World Cup challenge.

He said: "We have been forced to dispense with the national coach."

Lopetegui's replacement would be announced "soon", Rubiales said.

"We want to thank Julen for all he's done and he's a big reason behind us being in Russia, but we feel obliged to dispense with his services," added Rubiales.

"There has to be a message to all RFEF employees and there are ways of behaving that you need to abide by.

"The negotiation occurred without the RFEF having any information. (We were told) just five minutes before the press release. We have a way of behaving that needs to be adhered to.

"The Spain team is the team of all Spaniards. You can't do things this way, two or three days before the World Cup. We have been obliged to make this decision."

Fernando Hierro will take charge of the national team after Lopetegui's departure, with his first game on Friday in Krasnodar against Spain in their Group B opener.

In his 20 games in charge of Spain, Lopetegui had a record of 14 wins, six draws and zero defeats.

The 51-year old's move to Real came as a surprise, with his name not featuring prominently among the host of managers linked with the role since the departure of Zinedine Zidane days after Madrid's 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final.

A club statement released yesterday said: "Real Madrid CF announces that Julen Lopetegui will coach the first team for the next three seasons.

"Julen Lopetegui will join the club after the participation of the Spanish team in the World Cup, after two years leading the national team."

Former goalkeeper Lopetegui, 51, made a sole league appearance for Madrid as a player, and later turned out for rivals Barcelona a handful of times. He coached Madrid's feeder club Castilla in 2008/09 before taking charge of Spain's youth teams.

Zidane's shock departure came after he had guided Madrid to a third straight Champions League title.

But Madrid had finished a distant third as Barcelona took the honours in LaLiga, and Lopetegui will be charged with closing what was a 17-point gap.

Among his first tasks will be resolving the future of Gareth Bale, with the Wales forward unhappy with his limited playing time under Zidane and in a powerful position after scoring twice off the bench in the Champions League final.

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