Spain have appointed former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique as their new coach to replace Julen Lopetegui, the country’s football federation (RFEF) announced on Monday.
The RFEF was looking for a new coach since sacking Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup following the manager’s decision to take over the Real Madrid job despite him having a contract with the national team.
Luis Enrique has been on a sabbatical since leaving Barcelona in May 2017 and was a reported target of Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in April.
The RFEF’s executive committee met on Monday and unanimously approved Luis Enrique’s appointment just eight days after the national team, under caretaker manager Fernando Hierro, were eliminated on penalties by hosts Russia in the second round of the World Cup.
“It has been approved unanimously by the RFEF’s executive committee the appointment of Luis Enrique as national team coach for the next two years,” RFEF president Luis Rubiales said in a news conference at the federation’s headquarters in Las Rozas, Madrid.
“There’s a total agreement. He’s had bigger offers but he wanted to be national team coach and I want to highlight the sacrifice he has made.
“He will be unveiled next week.”
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) July 9, 2018
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and former Spain internationals Michel and Quique Sanchez Flores had been considered contenders for the position but Luis nrique was the No. 1 choice. He fits the profile of a “successful, unchallenged leader” that federation chief Luis Rubiales wanted.
“We didn’t speak to anyone else, we only spoke to Luis Enrique,” Rubiales said. “He was our first choice, he fits in perfectly with what we want.”
Luis Enrique, 48, guided Barca to nine titles in his three campaigns in charge of the first team, including a treble-winning in his first season at the helm. He previously coached Roma, Celta Vigo and Barca’s reserves. He also enjoyed a successful playing career, competing for both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
He scored 12 goals in 62 appearances for Spain, was a member of the squad that won gold at the 1992 Olympics and represented the national team at three World Cups as well as Euro 1996.
Spain, who won back-to-back European titles (2008, 2012) and the 2010 World Cup, are hoping to open a new successful chapter under Enrique after three consecutive disappointing tournaments.
In Russia, La Roja finished top of their group after a win against Iran and draws against Portugal and Morocco. They lost 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw with Russia in the second round. Spain had suffered a group stage exit four years earlier in Brazil and lost to Italy in the round of 16 of Euro 2016.
Rubiales revealed earlier on Monday that the federation had not consulted the national team players when deciding on the new manager.
Luis Enrique’s first game in charge will be a UEFA Nations League’s encounter against England on Sept. 8.
La Roja will also take on Croatia in group four of League A. Earlier on Monday, the RFEF appointed former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jose Francisco Molina as their new sporting director, replacing Fernando Hierro, who resigned from the role on Sunday.
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.