Real Madrid president accuses Spanish FA of ‘absurd reaction’ over Lopetegui
Florentino Pérez says sacking of Spanish coach ‘was aimed at hurting the prestige of Real Madrid’
New Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui poses with with club president Florentino Perez during his presentation at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters
The Real Madrid president, Florentino Pérez, has accused the Spanish Football Federation of taking an “absurd reaction” in sacking their manager on the eve of the World Cup – a decision Julen Lopetegui described as “the saddest day of my life”.
A little more than 24 hours after his contract with Spain was terminated due to secret negotiations with Madrid, Lopetegui was unveiled as the successor to Zinedine Zidane at a hastily arranged press conference having flown back from Russia on Wednesday evening.
Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish FA, had described his decision as an “obligation” after he was informed of the 51-year-old’s impending departure only five minutes before it was made public, with Fernando Hierro placed in charge of the team ahead of their opening match against Portugal on Friday.
But in a staunch defence of their conduct, Pérez insisted that Madrid had acted clearly and transparently and expressed his surprise that Rubiales had taken such drastic action.
“It was an absurd reaction of misunderstanding and pride, which was aimed at hurting the prestige of Real Madrid,” he said. “We reached an agreement very quickly, in a few hours, and wanted to make a show of transparency, to avoid all rumours and speculation during the tournament.
“There was no reason at all while Julen Lopetegui should not have been on the Spain national team bench tomorrow. We feel for him that he could not achieve his great goal of success with his country.”
Lopetegui, who last month signed a contract extension with Spain until 2022, admitted was disappointed not to have the chance to lead his country at the World Cup but defended his conduct in negotiations with Madrid.
“Yesterday was the saddest day of my life, since the death of my mother. But this is the happiest day,” he said.
“When there was something to say the first person to know was Rubiales. I wanted to give a press conference that day but could not. I am clear that the only motive to announce it was to be honest and transparent.
“I am very relaxed, all of us are, we have acted in a fully professional and honest way. If someone wants to understand things another way, they can. But we have been professional, honest, and clear.”
He added: “I will support this magnificent group of players. In two years I have had four presidents in the federation. We survived with the strength of the squad, the team and that strength can make them world champions.”
Having began his career with Real Madrid’s youth and B sides, Lopetegui made only one senior appearance before going to play for Barcelona. But he insisted the opportunity to take over at the Santiago Bernabéu was too good to turn down and hinted that Cristiano Ronaldo – who will face his former side in Sochi – still has a future at the club despite uncertainty surrounding the Portugal forward.
“I came here aged 18 to play for Castilla, to experience the values and the loyalty. I had the fortune to coach Castilla, and now have this great responsibility to coach Real Madrid. It is a closed cycle, and I am very happy. Cristiano is a player I have always admired, and clearly the best in the world should be at Real Madrid.” – Guardian service