Luis Enrique returned to his role as manager of Spain on Tuesday, having temporarily stepped down in June for personal reasons.
Two months later, the former Barcelona manager shared the tragic news that his nine-year-old daughter Xana had died following a five-month battle with bone cancer. During his absence, Roberto Moreno oversaw the team, but said in September he would step aside should Luis Enrique decide to come back.
Following Spain’s 5-0 victory over Romania, which completed their Euro 2020 qualification campaign, it was reported that Moreno was to be dismissed from his role.
“It was left clear that when Luis Enrique wanted to return, he could,” Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales said in an 80-minute news conference in Madrid on Tuesday.
“I said that when he felt strong enough to return, the door was open. We’ve been really happy with Robert. We thank him for his work, but the leader of this project was Luis Enrique.”
Moreno is yet to comment publicly, having refused to speak after the game against Romania when rumours were already circulating about his future.
Rubiales said he had received a message from Moreno earlier on Monday that said: “I want to agree my departure and not be an obstacle for the return of Luis Enrique.”
That message came 24 hours after the federation had told Moreno they were evaluating the possibility of the former coach’s return.
Rubiales added: “I asked Robert Moreno to come here this morning, but he didn’t want to. We don’t consider it a resignation or a sacking. We consider it Robert Moreno’s decision.”
He also confirmed that Moreno’s lawyers have been at the federation’s headquarters in Las Rozas on Tuesday morning negotiating his departure.
It has been reported that the 42-year-old thanked the players for their efforts in a tearful dressing room farewell on Monday night.
Rubiales also spoke to the team’s captains, telling them the decision had been made and the deterioration in the relationship between Luis Enrique and Moreno meant the two could not work together again.
Reports suggest that the players are comfortable with Luis Enrique’s return, while also believing Moreno deserves credit for the work he has done.
He worked with Luis Enrique at Roma, Celta Vigo and Barcelona before becoming part of his national team set-up.
“I consider Luis a friend and friendship comes first,” he said in September. “If he wants to return one day, I’ll be happy to step aside.”
However, their relationship has since become strained, and Moreno will not be part of Spain’s coaching staff for Euro 2020.
Spanish media reports that those differences are partly over the direction Moreno took as Spain coach, with Luis Enrique expecting more continuity in his style and approach.
“I don’t know [how the relationship is],” Rubiales said. “That’s personal between Luis Enrique and his staff. That’s something for him.”
Spain have now had five coaches in 17 months during Rubiales’ turbulent tenure as Spanish football federation president.
Julen Lopetegui was sacked as the 2018 World Cup was about to begin, when it emerged that he had agreed to join Real Madrid.
Fernando Hierro took temporary charge for a disastrous tournament before being replaced by Luis Enrique.
His daughter’s cancer diagnosis forced him to leave the Spain camp on the eve of a game in Malta in March this year.
Moreno initially supervised the team in his absence, before being appointed on a full-time basis.
In August, Moreno told Cadena SER radio that Rubiales was “the best president in the world, he’s the one who took a chance on me. He’s a very direct person, agree with him or not.”
The first signs of unrest behind the scenes came on Friday, when Rubiales refused to back Moreno as coach for the Euros when speaking after Spain’s 7-0 win over Malta.
“Since the death of Luis Enrique’s daughter, we’ve spoken three times” Rubiales said. “On August 29, I gave him my condolences. At the end of October we spoke, and yesterday [Monday] we spoke.
“Between the first call and the end of October, Robert Moreno told us he had spoken with Luis Enrique and he wanted to return to work. We found out through Robert Moreno.”
Spain will be seeded in the Euro 2020 draw on Nov. 30 in Bucharest.
A date has not yet been set for Luis Enrique to take charge and begin preparations for the tournament, where Spain will play their group games in Bilbao.