The Spanish national football team have suffered a major setback on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as Julen Lopetegui has been removed as as the manager. The new broke one day after it was announced that he would take over the managerial duties at Real Madrid at the end of the WC.

Lopetegui has signed a three-year deal to succeed Zinedine Zidane with the Champions League holders and it was decided that in the circumstances it was inappropriate for him to continue with Spain.

“We have been forced to dispense with the national coach. We wish him the greatest of luck,” said Spanish Football Association president, Luis Rubiales, who flew to Spain’s training base late on Tuesday instead of was attending Fifa’s congress in Moscow on Wednesday.

“The negotiations have occurred without any information to the Spanish FA and we were informed just five minutes before the press release. There’s a way to act that needs to be fulfilled.”

So who would be at the helm of things during the all-important tournament? “We are going to touch as little as possible. We are working on it. When we know we will tell you. I have spoken with the players and I can guarantee they will do everything, along with the new coach, to take the team as far as possible. To win is very important, to have the best coach very important, but above everything is acting in the right way. Maybe this is tough now, but in the end it will make us stronger.”

The candidates who are being touted as probable replacements for now are Spain Under-21 manager Albert Celades, who is part of the coaching staff with the senior squad in Russia, and director of football Fernando Hierro.

Spain play their first Group B match against Portugal on Friday evening.

Image: Instagram/Julen Lopetegui

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