Julen Lopetegui Firing by Spain Saves Real Madrid €2M Due to Release Clause

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2018

KRASNODAR, RUSSIA - JUNE 11: Head coach Julen Lopetegui of Spain looks on during a training session on June 11, 2018 in Krasnodar, Russia. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid won't have to pay the €2 million release clause to make Julen Lopetegui their new manager after the 51-year-old was sacked by the Spanish national team on Wednesday.

Spain showed Lopetegui the door just two days before their first Group B match at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after the former Porto boss had initially agreed to take over Los Blancos following the tournament.

The decision means the Spanish football federation (RFEF) is not due compensation, per Sport's Jesus Burgos. He confirmed Real were ready to pay the €2 million after the World Cup ended on Sunday, July 15.

However, the need has been removed since RFEF president Luis Rubiales dismissed Lopetegui on the grounds his negotiations with Real took place "without any information to the RFEF," per BBC Sport.

Ironically, former Real captain Fernando Hierro has been tasked with taking charge of La Roja in Russia this summer.

The decision came a day after Real announced Lopetegui had agreed to replace Zinedine Zidane in the dugout on a three-year deal.

Spain's managerial about-turn prompted humour from some:

Not everybody was impressed with how things unfolded, though. Among them, BBC Sport's Andy West was critical of Lopetegui's thinking:

By contrast, Andrew Gaffney of Sport questioned the Spanish federation's call to make such a high-profile switch on the eve of a World Cup:

Gaffney's point may be well-taken, but it's also easy to understand why Spain was wary of having their coach split his focus this summer. ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan recounted how the nation suffered the last time the man in charge made a similar move so close to a tournament:

Spain can't afford a similar showing after crashing out of the group stage at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The dismal performance was followed by a Round of 16 exit at UEFA Euro 2016, prompting Lopetegui to take over from Vicente del Bosque.

Fortunately, La Roja's ranks are still loaded with talent, particularly in midfield. David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Isco, Koke and Thiago Alcantara mean this squad has more creative flair than any other at the tournament.

Hierro, an outstanding midfielder at international level before switching to centre-back and winning the UEFA Champions League three times with Real, has plenty to work with.

While Spain have been rocked by change, Los Blancos have got the man they wanted cheaper than expected. The outcome will naturally suit the club's hierarchy:

Lopetegui must now overcome any negativity from his exit from the international stage and begin focusing on improving a club good enough to win the Champions League three years running, but 17 points off Barcelona in La Liga last season.

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