Moscow: This time, it could not be pinned on Gerard Pique. Or the Catalans. Spain’s problems rose from its power centre. A crisis of Real Madrid’s making, Julen Lopetegui’s misjudgement, and Luis Rubiales’ president of the Spanish Football Federation, RFEF ego.
It was all about “five minutes”. Rubiales came to know of the impending announcement when Julen Lopetegui called him on Tuesday. Following a tense half-hour conversation with the manager and a missed call, the RFEF president asked Real Madrid to delay the announcement. But Madrid wanted to break the news and went ahead anyway. Rubiales would not accept that.
The Spanish Radio Marca has claimed that six Real Madrid members of the World Cup squad were already aware of the appointment. The problem was born when a playing member outside the group learnt the news. Lopetegui was worried that a leak was in the offing, so he contacted Madrid to avoid any unpleasantness. Clearly, he was wrong.
In the press conference on Wednesday, Rubiales implicitly blamed Madrid, and not Lopetegui, for the crisis when he said, “If it was up to the coach, I am sure he would have done things differently.” Madrid is often held up as the ultimate symbol of Spanish nationalism, but its enlarging influence on the country’s football scene is a cause for worry now. It seems rather petty to not wait a little if the Spanish Federation wanted to release a statement first. Lopetegui, after all, was still an employee of the national body, having signed a contract extension till 2020 only a few weeks ago.