Spain announced the departure of Luis Enrique as coach of the national team on Thursday following the team’s shock penalty shootout defeat on Tuesday to Morocco in the round of 16 at the World Cup in Qatar, and his replacement was named.
The former Barcelona manager, whose contract with Spain was set to end this month, took full responsibility for his team’s earlier than expected exit from the tournament.
The Spanish FA announced that Luis Enrique would be replaced by Spain under-21 manager Luis de la Fuente. De la Fuente, 61, guided Spain’s under-19 side to a European Championship title in 2015 and led the under-21s to the same honour in 2019, while he was in charge of the team that won a silver medal at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
A statement from the Spanish FA said: “The RFEF would like to thank Luis Enrique and his entire coaching staff at the helm of the absolute national team in recent years.
“The RFEF has chosen Luis de la Fuente as the new national coach. The sporting director, Jose Francisco Molina, has transferred a report to the president, Luis Rubiales, in which he recommends the coach to lead the new chapter that begins after the World Cup in Qatar.
“The RFEF board of directors must approve the appointment next Monday.”
De la Fuente will be introduced then, at 12:30 local time.
In a statement published on his social media channels, Luis Enrique thanked the Spanish FA for having appointed him, the players, who he said had been “exemplary in their behaviour” and the fans. He also said the national team needed “support” to allow De la Fuente to succeed while in charge of Spain.
“Everything started four years ago and how quickly time has passed,” Luis Enrique said.
“I can only be super grateful to those who appointed me twice (president Rubiales and sporting director Molina).
“How could I not [be grateful] to the players who have been exemplary in their behavior and faithful to the idea put forward. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help you more.
“Last but not least, to the fans who in a uniform way have transmitted their support in all moments and especially the most delicate ones.
“It’s time to say goodbye and in these cases just a small reflection… What the national team needs is SUPPORT in all its meaning so that Luis de la Fuente can achieve everything that is proposed.”
Later in the day the Spanish FA announced that sporting director Molina would also leave his role next month after deciding not to renew his contract, with Albert Luque replacing him as director of the national team.
The announcement of Luis Enrique’s departure comes as no surprise. Luis Enrique had said in the aftermath of Tuesday’s loss to Morocco after a goalless draw that he would discuss his future with Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales next week. However, pressure mounted on Luis Enrique, with fans and national media calling for his resignation after what they described as a “fiasco.”
Spain players wanted Luis Enrique to continue as coach and had spoken out in his favour.
Luis Enrique, 52, guided Spain to the semifinals of Euro 2020 and the final of the Nations League in 2021, and recently steered La Roja to the final four of the 2023 Nations League.
The Spanish FA had offered him a contract extension before the World Cup but Luis Enrique postponed that decision until after the tournament.
Rubiales praised Luis Enrique’s commitment to the national team ahead of the game against Morocco, saying: “Luis Enrique is a top-level manager, who agreed to take over on a financially weak offer and turned down attractive offers from English clubs. We will speak with him after the World Cup to assess the work that is being done and he will have complete freedom if he wants to leave. I’m really grateful to him. He renewed the blood of the National Team with players under 20 years of age and reunited everyone around the Spain team.”
Spain had the third-youngest squad at the World Cup, with Gavi, 18, and Pedri, who turned 20 during the tournament, as starters while they had Alejandro Balde, 19, and 20-year-old strikers Ansu Fati and Nico Williams coming off the bench.
Spain could not have asked for a better start to the tournament than a 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica, the country’s biggest ever World Cup win. Alarm bells began ringing when Germany scored a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw and concerns deepened after Japan came from behind to beat Spain 2-1 in their final Group E game.
The Spanish FA added in their statement: “The RFEF energetically wishes Luis Enrique and his team the best of luck in their future professional projects. The coach earns the love and admiration of his collaborators in the national team and of the entire federation, which will always be his home.”