Julen Lopetegui says being sacked as Spain coach two days before their opening match at the World Cup was possibly “the saddest day of my life” — but he was thrilled to be introduced as Real Madrid boss.
Real Madrid unveiled their new manager at the Bernabeu on Thursday, one day after Spain unexpectedly informed him his services would not be required at the World Cup following the announcement of his agreement with the club.
“Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother, but today is the happiest day of my life,” Lopetegui told reporters. “Thank you president [Florentino Perez] and Real Madrid for the confidence and trust you’ve shown in me.
“We’re going to fight to be as good as we’ve been throughout the history of this club. Together we want to try and win everything.”
Lopetegui said he was not embarrassed by the sequence of events, though he wished Spanish federation chief Luis Rubiales had not acted so swiftly.
“Humiliated, no. I’ve acted in an honest way despite the things that have been said,” he said. “We have been professional, honest and clear. I would have liked Rubiales to do things differently.”
Rubiales had said Madrid and Lopetegui kept him in the dark until five minutes before the club made the deal public, but Lopetegui insisted the timing of the announcement shouldn’t matter since it came before the tournament kicked off.
“Loyalty is telling the truth. The agreement [with Madrid] was closed before the World Cup, not during,” he said. “I had been honest and transparent and had nothing to hide.”
Madrid president Perez defended the club’s decision to announce Lopetegui’s agreement while Spain were preparing to open the World Cup against Portugal.
“We had wanted to do this [news conference] after the World Cup, but a series of circumstances have led us to here,” Perez said. “It’s inevitable there will be some comments about what has happened but Real Madrid and Julen Lopetegui made an agreement in just a few hours. It was an agreement to work together after the World Cup, obviously respecting the clauses of his contract [with Spain].
“We had an agreement in a few hours and we wanted to make it transparent and clear so as to prevent rumours and leaks that could damage the Spain team during the World Cup.”
Perez also said he believed Spain should have allowed Lopetegui to continue, while also backing the national team players to overcome his loss.
“We still cannot understand why this agreement could affect the [Spain] players, who really wanted to win and be world champions again,” he said. “We’re talking about hugely professional players who do not lose their concentration. This agreement would not affect their performances in the least.
“There’s no argument that justifies Julen Lopetegui not being on the Spain bench tomorrow.”