Jolen Lopetegui described today as the happiest day of his life as he was officially unveiled as the new manager of Real Madrid, but yesterday was undoubtedly one of the saddest as he was sacked by Spain just days before their World Cup opener.
Lopetegui agreed to take over at the Bernabeu when his work with Spain was finished, but the Spanish FA dismissed him despite their upcoming group game against Portugal on Friday night.
Speaking at the unveiling, he said: “We will try and win everything. I just want to thank everyone, I feel like part of the Real family.
“Yesterday, after the death of my mother, was the saddest of my life, but today is the happiest day of my life.”
He was not a favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane, who shocked the football world by resigning after winning three Champions League titles in a row.
Madrid president Florentino Perez also spoke at the event, and he launched an extraordinary public attack on the Spanish FA.
Read his remarkable statement in full below:
“We wanted to have this act after the World Cup, a successful World Cup for our national team. However circumstances mean we are here now, and we are delighted to welcome the new manager of our team.
“I know for you, Julen, today is a day of a lot of feelings, strange feelings, as you wanted to be world champion, you wanted to make Spain champion of the world and then be manager of your dear Real Madrid.
“Inevitably there will be some comments about what has happened, but Real and Julen made an agreement to work together after the World Cup, respecting his contract. We wanted to do it before the World Cup to make it transparent and avoid rumours.
“There is no precedent that a manager agrees to become manager of a team after a competition and that agreement has been interpreted as disloyal. If you think it is, well, that is not how we do things in modern Spain. It is not true at all.
“We wanted to make it transparent and clear to prevent leaks that could damage Spain during the World Cup. This agreement seemed all normal, but then it was a reaction of pride from the FA president which has disrespected Real Madrid.
“There have been cases, Conte, van Gaal, who have agreed to move on from national teams before or during a competition. Real are proud to have been able to help the success of the national team, and it is important that we remain the most respected club in the world and work against those who seek to destroy our image. I do not want to play the victim, but we must combat this anti-Madrid feeling during one of the best moments in our history.
“We are hugely surprised and cannot understand how this agreement could affect the players who are committed to being world champions again. These are professional players, this agreement would not hurt them, there is nothing that does not justify Lopetegui being on the Spain bench tomorrow.
“We are sorry he could not fight to make Spain world champions, but we have the satisfaction of having a great manager to make history again. This is a huge challenge not many get to face, I want to thank you Julen, and welcome you to your home.”