Spain have sacked its national coach Julen Lopetegui just before their opening World Cup game against Portugal in Sochi and have named Fernando Hierro as his replacement.

Spain has summoned Hierro, the director of football, to take the reins ahead of their World Cup opener against Portugal.

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The sacking comes in the wake of the news, released on Tuesday afternoon, that Lopetegui had been roped in by the Real Madrid.

Spanish President of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales insisted that they were left with no choice but to terminate the contract with Lopetegui as the federation was unaware of the decision.

Rubiales said that he received a phone call from Madrid just five minutes before they made an official announcement of their new appointment. He then flew from Moscow to Krasnodar to the national team’s Headquarters to discuss the situation.

Soon after discussing it with the players he announced that they would sack the coach and described it as an ‘obligation’ on a ‘sad day’.

Hierro said, “It is a challenge for me. I couldn’t have refused it.”

Also Read: Julen Lopitegui to be the new manager of Real Madrid

Hierro is one of the biggest names in world football and he garners the reputation of being one of the toughest midfielders in Europe.

Hierro played for Real Madrid between 1989 and 2003 and made over 500 appearances and won five La Liga titles.

During that time period, he was also a mainstay of Spain’s national side. He was appointed as the captain in 1998 and became their all-time top goal scorer. But, now he sits on the fifth spot on the list.

Hierro announced his retirement in 2005, and he was presented as sporting director for the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) two years later. He oversaw the best part of the national side’s most successful period in history when they won the 2008 European Championship and the 2010 World Cup.