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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Julen Lopetegui calls Spain dismissal 'saddest day since death of my mother'

Lopetegui, who had been in Russia preparing national team for World Cup, was dismissed on Wednesday after Madrid confirmed he would take over at the Bernabeu for next season

Real Madrid presented new manager Julen Lopetegui a day after he was dismissed by Spain. Juan Medina / Reuters
Real Madrid presented new manager Julen Lopetegui a day after he was dismissed by Spain. Juan Medina / Reuters

Julen Lopetegui said on Thursday that the day that he was dismissed as Spain manager was the "saddest" since the death of his mother as he was officially unveiled as Real Madrid's new manager.

"Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother. But today is the happiest day of my life," Lopetegui said as he fought back tears.

Lopetegui, who had been in Russia preparing the national team for the World Cup, was dismissed on Wednesday after Madrid confirmed he would take over at the Bernabeu for next season.

Meanwhile, captain Sergio Ramos urged Spain to put the drama of the past 48 hours, involving the dismissal of Lopetegui, behind them as they look to focus on their World Cup opener against Portugal in Sochi on Friday.

"We need to move on as soon as possible," Ramos said on the eve of the game. "These have not been pleasant times at all.

"Julen has been part of this World Cup," he added. "Spain needs to come before any individual, as soon as possible. Let's move on from this and focus on the World Cup. That is better for everyone."

Ramos also said there were no divisions in the Spanish squad following the decision to let go of Lopetegui, under whom the 2010 World Cup winners had been unbeaten in two years.

"There are no cracks. We are all individuals and we all think differently, but the collective idea is the same - we are here to go for the World Cup," said Ramos, who will play under Lopetegui at club level next season.

Spain captain Sergio Ramos, centre, has called for calm after the dismissal of Julen Lopetegui. Francois Lenoir / Reuters
Spain captain Sergio Ramos, centre, has called for calm after the dismissal of Julen Lopetegui. Francois Lenoir / Reuters

"For me, personally, it was a more delicate moment but I can assure you that these problems provide an opportunity to grow."

Fernando Hierro has hastily been brought in to manager a side that had been considered by many as the favourites in Russia.

Ramos and Hierro showed a united front as they posed for the cameras and the latter, a former Spain defender, has admitted he will not be making any major changes to the system put in place by his predecessor.

"The reality is that we will change little, we don't have time," he said. "We have clear ideas and we are not going to change our concept of how to play football one jot."

Spain also face Iran and Morocco in Group B.

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