Bengaluru, June 13: Controversy hit Spain camp just twenty four hours before the World Cup kick off as coach Julen Lopetegui was given the marching orders after being confirmed as the new Real Madrid head coach.
In a surprise move, Lopetegui was named as Zinedine Zidane's successor at the European champions. The 51-year-old signed a three-year deal at Madrid and was supposed take over after the World Cup.
Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) chief Luis Rubiales was apparently miffed at the decision and was said to be "furious" and "deeply upset".
BREAKING: Spain 🇪🇸 manager Julen Lopetegui has been sacked just two days before their opening World Cup game vs Portugal 🇵🇹 after he was named as the new Real Madrid manager ! pic.twitter.com/faxJpGc0xa— HOUSSAM (@HoussamGhenam_) June 13, 2018
From Wednesday (June 13) morning, rumours began to surface that Lopetegui would receive the pink slip and it was confirmed by the Rubiales just two days before the former champions open their World Cup campaign against Portugal.
"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," Rubiales told a press conference.
"There has to be a message to all RFEF employees and there are ways of behaving that you need to abide by," he added.
The decision ends a two-year period in the job for Lopetegui, whose contract was supposed to run until the end of the 2020 European Championships.
Lopetegui press conference over - more news to come in the next hours, they'll let us know...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 13, 2018
"Lopetegui's replacement would be announced "soon", Rubiales added.
Former player Fernando Hierro is the front-runner to take over from Lopetegui in the interim.
The 51-year-old was hired by the RFEF after Euro 2016, when the side were eliminated in the round of 16 by Italy.
Since then Lopetegui has managed to restore belief in the senior national team ahead of the Russia World Cup and was yet to lose while at the helm. He was rewarded with a two-year extension in May and had been under contract until 2020.
Lopetegui's coaching career has predominantly centred on international football, having enjoyed spells in charge of Spain's Under-17s, Under-19s, Under-20s and Under-21s.
His last club role saw him hired by Porto in 2014 and he lasted two years, though it was not considered to be a successful era at the club, as they failed to win any trophies under his guidance despite spending a significant amount of money.
(With inputs from Agencies)