Julen Lopetegui admits his emotions went from one extreme to the other during a whirlwind 48 hours that saw him appointed Real Madrid coach and then sacked as Spain boss.
Lopetegui was officially unveiled by Madrid at the Bernabeu on Thursday night after being named as the surprise successor to Zinedine Zidane on Tuesday.
The 51-year-old’s three-year deal with the European champions would have seen him take over following the World Cup but, in another shock announcement, he was sacked as Spain coach on Wednesday.
Looking back over the last two days, an emotional Lopetegui said at his Madrid presentation: “Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother, but today is the happiest.”
He added: “I’d like to express my gratitude for the trust and responsibility placed in me, which I relish with great pride.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to give the best account of ourselves and fight at the level that this club belongs, and even push it higher.”
Lopetegui replaced the hugely-successful Vicente del Bosque as Spain coach after Euro 2016 and was unbeaten in his 20 games in charge, with 14 wins.
However, just days before La Roja’s World Cup campaign begins against Portugal on Friday, the former Porto boss was dismissed from his post after accepting Madrid’s offer.
Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales told a press conference on Wednesday that he had only been made aware of Lopetegui’s appointment five minutes before Madrid made the news official.
Madrid president Florentino Perez defended the club’s actions.
“What should be an act of normalcy, and as it seemed at the start, the press conference between the president of the Federation and the coach was transformed into what seems an absurd reaction of misunderstanding and pride,” he said at Lopetegui’s presentation.
“Real Madrid reached an agreement with Lopetegui in a matter of hours, exercising both parties’ liberties and always respecting the clauses and terms of his contract.
“We thought it should be concluded prior to the World Cup starting, in the name of transparency.
“This is a first in footballing history, that a national coach, having come to an agreement with another team, has been considered to have behaved in a disloyal manner.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. We made our agreement public before the World Cup kicked off in order to avoid it being leaked, and for transparency to prevail.”
Perez also felt it was “unfair” for Lopetegui to have been sacked by Spain.
He added: “There is no justifiable argument as to why Lopetegui shouldn’t be on the national team bench tomorrow.
“We’re sorry they have not allowed him to fight for this great dream but today is a big day for everyone. We’re signing a wonderful coach and can’t wait to keep writing history together.”
Lopetegui, who said he would be cheering Spain on in Russia, said: “I would have liked Rubiales to have acted differently.”
He added in quotes reported by Marca: “Loyalty is telling the truth and, as soon as there was something to say, he was the first one to know.
“I wanted to give a press conference that same day, but I had to wait for him because he was far away.
“The agreement had to be finished before, not during the World Cup.
“The players knew about it and there was no problem, they trained magnificently.”
- Press Association