Fernando Hierro will be Spain’s manager for the 2018 World Cup after it was announced the former Real Madrid and Bolton man would replace Julen Loptegui just two days before the tournament kicks off.
Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales (pictured right) removed Lopetegui from the post just two days before the national team’s Group B opener against Portugal.
Rubiales had been riled by being told of Lopetegui’s decision to take the Real job just five minutes before it was made public.
Former Spain and Real Madrid captain Hierro (left), who moves from his role as the team’s director of football, was presented to the press at the Krasnodar Stadium on Wednesday afternoon before getting to work in his new post.
Hierro knows he can have little influence on the way the team is prepared to enter the tournament but will do the best he can with the hand he has been dealt.
“It is a nice challenge and an exciting one,” he told reporters at a press conference in Krasnador.
“The circumstances are what they are and from now on I accept the responsibility bravely, it can’t be any other way.
“We have a group of players who have been together for two years to work towards the World Cup and I have been sporting director, so I understand the motivation is huge.
“We cannot alter two years of hard work in the coming days – from now until the Portugal match, we don’t have the ability to change much.
“They key is to change as little as possible. We cannot change anything in two days.”
The 50-year-old won three Champions League titles during his playing days with Real and represented Spain at World Cups in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002. In the latter, he was named in the All-Star team of the tournament, despite Spain’s quarter final exit against South Korea.
Spain will play their first game against Portugal Friday, June 15.
Sources told ESPN FC there were meetings early Wednesday morning that involved players, officials and coaching staff. The players, through captain Sergio Ramos, tried to convince Rubiales not to fire Lopetegui up until late Wednesday morning.
But then, Rubiales made his shock call. He used a snap news conference to say he had sacked Lopetegui, with former Real Madrid and Spain defender Fernando Hierro later confirmed as the replacement.
“The federation cannot be left outside the negotiation of one of its employees, and find out just five minutes before a public announcement,” Rubiales said.
“If anybody wants to talk to one of our employees, they have to speak to us too. That is basic, as this is the team of all Spaniards. The national team is the most important we have, the World Cup is the biggest of all. “