The FC crew react to Real Madrid’s appointment of Julen Lopetegui as manager, questioning the timing as he prepares to lead Spain at the World Cup.

ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti discusses the tricky situation Julen Lopetegui finds himself in as he coaches Spain before taking over at Real Madrid.

Alejandro Moreno explains why the timing of Real Madrid’s hiring of Julen Lopetegui as manager could be a detriment to Spain at the World Cup.

Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as Spain national coach on the eve of the World Cup, after agreeing to take over at Real Madrid.

Madrid had been looking for a replacement since Zinedine Zidane stepped down last month, just days after winning a third consecutive Champions League trophy.

After guiding Spain easily through qualification to the World Cup finals, Lopetegui had agreed a new contract up until Euro 2022 in May. But just three days before Spain’s Group B opener against Portugal in Sochi, Madrid announced on Tuesday afternoon that they had convinced him to leave that position after the tournament is over to take up a three-year deal with the La Liga giants.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales and Lopetegui were set to give a news conference from the national team’s camp in Krasnodar early on Wednesday morning. Ex-Spain and Madrid defender Fernando Hierro is also with the team in Russia as sporting director, and could step in as coach if Lopetegui were to leave immediately.

On Tuesday night, RFEF vice-president Rafael del Amo told Radio Marca that he was very disappointed by the timing of Madrid taking the national coach, and predicted further negative fallout should Spain not now win the World Cup.

“I don’t like it, don’t like it at all,” Del Amo said. “This is not the moment, [Lopetegui] will know that. It is a bit offside, he should have been focused on where he is, there is a lot on the line. I believe they should have looked for another moment, but you must have respect too. I [still] believe we will win the tournament, I hope so. If not, you realise how bad this news could be, for some, and for others. For sure it is not the best thing that could have happened.”

Reports say that the former Madrid and Barcelona goalkeeper, whose representative Caros Bucero works closely with Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes, will triple his salary with the move.

Rubiales spoke with Marca on his return to the Krasnodar camp from Moscow, where the national federation president had been expecting to attend Wednesday’s vote to pick the host for the 2026 World Cup.

“This is not the moment to speak, but we will take the best decision for the national team,” said Rubiales, who was only voted RFEF president last month. “We will do things with responsibility.”

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan