Neu is not the position for him. Luis de la Fuente was previously the coach of the Spanish national team. For one game only, but that’s what counts. In June 2021, when the corona pandemic was raging even harder than today, the virus hit the Selección with full force as they were preparing for the upcoming European Championships. In order not to have to cancel the friendly against Lithuania, the U21s coached by Luis de la Fuente, declared as the senior national team, stepped in.
From next year, 61-year-old de la Fuente will permanently take Luis Enrique’s place. The association has already announced the change of coach, and the new one will be presented on Monday. Spain officials had announced the end of their cooperation with Enrique after their elimination in the round of 16 against Morocco.
Open door entered
The way it was done seemed a bit bizarre, as so many things are bizarre when federation president Luis Rubiales is involved. The decision was said to have been communicated to Enrique by Rubiales and also outgoing sporting director José Francisco Molina (Albert Luque taking over). That sounded like dismissal where no dismissal was necessary. The contract with Enrique expires after the World Cup, the coach had not ruled out his willingness to extend it, but just as little explained it.
So it stands to reason that the association may have opened the door to Enrique. This is probably one of the reasons why his parting words sounded forgiving. The 52-year-old former international thanked everyone who had helped him over the past four years and ended up campaigning for his successor.
“What the national team needs now is support at all levels so that Luis de la Fuente can achieve what he set out to do,” Enrique wrote on his social media.
After the disappointing elimination in the round of 16, the second in a row, there is a heated debate in Spain about the style of the Selección. Like four years ago against Russia, the team failed to score in 120 minutes against Morocco, despite overwhelming superiority and possession rates around 70 percent.
The short passing game, Spain’s identity-forming stylistic device, is being questioned more critically than ever. De la Fuente is a proponent of this approach, but he is credited for always having a back-up plan with his youth teams when the chosen direction on the field proved inadequate. His teams liked to spread the game or push forward quickly when opportunities arose. He should now transfer this flexibility to the senior national team.
Qualifying for the European Championship begins in spring. There it goes first against Norway and Scotland. De la Fuente knows the faces and associated characters for his new job well. He has already trained almost all of today’s national players in one of the youth teams, for which he was responsible at the association from 2013.
Most recently, he won the silver medal for Spain at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Ahead of the tournament, de la Fuente was in the spotlight as he left the experienced Sergio Ramos at home. He showed composure, this experience could still be useful. Ramos was also not nominated for the World Cup. However, he has not yet officially retired from the national team.