Luis Enrique has left his role as Spain head coach following the country’s elimination from the World Cup.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) issued a statement thanking Enrique for his service and expressing its desire to start a new project for the national team, before announcing Spain U21 head coach Luis de la Fuente would now take charge of the senior side.
Spain suffered a disappointing last-16 exit at the tournament in Qatar after losing to Morocco on penalties on Tuesday.
Luis Enrique, whose contract had been due to expire at the end of the year, said after the match that he was to blame for the defeat.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help more,” the outgoing coach said in a statement posted on Twitter and Instagram. “It was very special to be part of this.”
Luis de la Fuente may be an unknown to many but not for some of Spain’s senior players, having led many of them to a silver medal at the delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021. He takes over from Luis Enrique after spending the last nine years as a head coach in the Spanish national team youth set-up.
The 61-year-old represented Spain up to U23 level in a playing career which saw him spend time at Sevilla, Alaves and Athletic Bilbao.
De la Fuente has not held a senior head coach role since he was sacked by Alaves in 2011 after just three months in charge. His other managerial experience includes time in charge of Basque side Club Portugalete in the Spanish regional leagues, former third-tier Spanish club CD Aurrera de Vitoria and Athletic Bilbao’s B team.
He also thanked fans and called for their support to the new coach.
“What the national team needs is support, in all its meaning, so Luis de la Fuente can achieve the goals.”
The 52-year-old had been in charge of Spain since 2018, and the RFEF issued a statement on Thursday indicated his contract would not be renewed.
The statement read: “The RFEF would like to thank Luis Enrique and his entire coaching staff.
“The sports management of the RFEF has transferred to the president a report in which it is determined that a new project should start for the Spanish team, with the aim of continuing with the growth achieved in recent years thanks to the work carried out by Luis Enrique and his collaborators.
“Both the president, Luis Rubiales, and the sports director, Jose Francisco Molina, have transmitted the decision to the coach.
“The Asturian coach managed to give a new impetus to the national team since his arrival, in 2018, through a profound renovation that has consolidated a generational change in the team and in Spanish football.
“Luis qualified for the final four of the UEFA Nations League twice and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020, with his own stamp and through a defined style. He opted for young talent and has sown hope for the future of the Spanish team.
“The RFEF energetically wishes Luis 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.”
De la Fuente oversaw Spain’s success at the European Under-19 Championship in 2015 and has been Under-21s boss since 2018, winning another Euro crown in 2019.
His first games will be Euro 2024 qualifiers against Norway and Scotland next March.