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Lopetegui SACKED as Spain coach after taking Real Madrid job

Spain sacked coach Julen Lopetegui just two days before the team's opening game against Portugal at the World Cup, Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales confirmed on Wednesday.

Lopetegui SACKED as Spain coach after taking Real Madrid job
Julen Lopetegui's appointment at Real Madrid cost him the Spain manager job. Photo: AFP

In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, Real Madrid named Lopetegui as their next manager to start work after the tournament in Russia, sparking outrage among the federation and Spanish fans at the timing of the announcement.

Lopetegui was announced as Zinedine Zidane's successor at the Santiago Bernabeu in a shock announcement on Tuesday that has rocked one of the pre-tournament favourites' preparations.

READ MORE: Spain coach Lopetegui to take Real Madrid job after World Cup

Spanish federation chief Luis Rubiales was furious at Lopetegui's decision to take the job, having signed a contract extension until 2020 just last month.

At a severely delayed press conference at Spain's World Cup base in Krasnodar, Rubiales appeared to say he felt Lopetegui's decision to join Madrid so close to the start of the tournament “obliged” him to take drastic action.

“I am here to say that we feel obliged to sack the national team manager,” said Rubiales.

Lopetegui had signed a contract extension until 2020 just last month and Rubiales is reportedly angry at only being informed of his decision to join Real minutes before the European champions made the announcement public.

No decision has yet been made over who will take charge with Spain due to face European champions Portugal in Sochi on Friday.   

“The future of Julen Lopetegui as Spanish national team manager hangs by a thread,” said Madrid-based sports daily Marca.   

El futuro de Lopetegui como seleccionador de #ESP en el Mundial pende de un hilo https://t.co/QkXEmp8CpE Lo cuenta @JFelixDiaz desde Krasnodar #Rusia2018 pic.twitter.com/bjh6XPqlWe

— MARCA (@marca) June 13, 2018

“Rubiales feels betrayed and his anger has only increased as the hours have passed.”

There was widespread anger among Spanish media and fans at the timing of the announcement on the eve of the tournament, with hopes high that a revitalised side could reach the heights of three consecutive major tournament wins between 2008 and 2012, including the country's only World Cup win in 2010.

“The news hit me like a bullet,” wrote Alfredo Relano, editor of sports daily AS.

Este Madrid fabrica antimadridismo https://t.co/FFANnNTfwe

— Alfredo Relaño (@AS_Relano) June 12, 2018

“Not because Lopetegui will be the coach of Madrid for the next three years, which seems like a good and respectable choice. But the day and way (it was announced) seemed horrible.”   

Spain are unbeaten in all of Lopetegui's 20 games in charge as Spain boss.   

However, there were fears his appointment could open up old divisions between the Real Madrid and Barcelona factions in the Spain squad.   

For the first time since 2006, there are more players from Madrid in a Spanish squad for a major tournament, with a six-strong Real contingent and just Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets from Barça.

“The announcement has not gone down well in the Spanish dressing room, apart from the Real players who have welcomed his arrival at the Bernabeu,” said Barcelona-based newspaper Sport.

According to reports in the Spanish media, the players tried to intervene at the last minute to prevent Rubiales sacking Lopetegui.

Lopetegui had a short playing career at both Madrid and Barcelona as a reserve goalkeeper.

However, his coaching career had been far from distinguished before being handed the role as Spain coach after a last-16 exit at Euro 2016 brought Vicente del Bosque's eight-year reign to an end.   

After short spells at Rayo Vallecano and with Madrid's youth team Real Madrid Castilla, Lopetegui enjoyed a successful time with Spain's under-19s and under-21s.

He then spent 18 months in charge of Porto but was sacked after exiting the Champions League at the group stage in his second season.

 

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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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