Big changes took place within the Spanish Football Federation recently, with a managerial merry-go-round to go with it
12th June 2018: Spain Head coach Julen Lopetegui was named Head Coach of Real Madrid, to take over after his national duties with Spain at the FIFA World Cup.
13th June 2018: Julen Lopetegui was sacked as Coach of the Spanish National Team, to be replaced by Fernando Hierro.
Now this team needs no introduction. Led by Sergio Ramos, one of the most controversial figures in the game, they are a force to be reckoned with. Now a question remains to be answered. How far will all this confusion affect them on the biggest stage in World Football?
Julen Lopetegui was a respected Spanish footballer, who played as a goalkeeper and took the route into management post his playing career. He succeeded Vicente del Bosque, arguably the Spanish team’s greatest ever coach. There were whispers that Lopetegui had even signed a 2-year contract extension with the Spanish team shortly before the World Cup. This made the whole fiasco that much more surprising.
The primary differences between a “Club Coach” and a “National Coach” is the time that they spend with their teams and the resources they have at their disposal. At the club, the coach basically spends the whole year with his team, while the national coach only gets his team when International friendlies and World tournaments begin. A club coach gets transfer budgets to bring in various players while a national coach can only work with the players in his national pool.
There have been two very prominent cases of this very kind of appointment, however maybe not as controversial. Louis Van Gaal (Netherlands) was appointed Head coach of Manchester United shortly before the World Cup 2014, while Antonio Conte (Italy) was appointed Head coach of Chelsea before the Euro 2016. In both cases, all the parties involved were completely aware of any deals that were made, and most importantly, the Governing Body was kept the loop at all times.
However, one thing that worked in both those managers’ favor was the team that they were joining and the team that they were leaving. Aside from maybe a couple of players, there wasn’t too much of a conflict of interest between the Italian National Team and The Dutch National Team with Chelsea and Manchester United respectively. The Spanish Job and Real Madrid and Barcelona jobs are almost inextricably linked together.
The Spanish Football President claimed that he was kept in the dark about Lopetegui’s Madrid move until five minutes before the announcement. If that is true, then one can only side with the Federation, seeing as how normal procedure has not been followed. Lopetegui being the new Madrid manager caused the non-Madrid players in the side to doubt that a conflict of interest may arise, and favorites may be picked.
Fernando Hierro has stepped in among the rubble and will look to keep his team’s concentration focused on one thing and one thing only- winning the World Cup. He must show excellent man management and make it clear to his players that only good performances and attitudes merit selection; nothing else does.
Even with all the confusion surrounding them, “La Furia Roja” are not a team to be trifled with. They were the last team to hold both the Euros and the World Cup simultaneously. They are a group of supremely talented and experienced footballers, and Hierro and the rest of Spain will be hoping that comes to the fore more than anything else.
The Spanish have enjoyed a decent start to this year’s event, earning 4 points from their opening 2 games. A 6-goal thriller against Portugal was followed by a gutsy win over Iran. Diego Costa’s ruthless efficiency in front of goal is aiding them in no small part. They will make it out of the group easily but will be tested as they go further into the tournament. For now, Hierro and Ramos will be hoping to invoke memories of 2010.