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Luis Enrique: Spain head coach leaves role after World Cup exit and replaced by U21 boss Luis de la Fuente

Spain suffered a disappointing last-16 exit at the World Cup in Qatar after losing to Morocco on penalties on Tuesday; the Spanish Football Federation has announced U21 head coach Luis de la Fuente will take over from Enrique as Spain boss

Luis de la Fuente and Luis Enrique
Image: Luis de la Fuente is taking over as Spain boss from Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique has left his role as Spain head coach following the country's elimination from the World Cup.

The RFEF issued a statement thanking Luis 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."

Who is Luis de la Fuente?

  • 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."

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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 full RFEF 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.

Luis Enrique consoles Sergio Busquets after the game
Image: Spain were knocked out of the World Cup at the last-16 stage by Morocco on penalties

"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.

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Luis Enrique will not have his contract renewed as Spain head coach following the country's last-16 exit from the World Cup

"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.

Enrique: I'm sorry I couldn't help more

"On behalf of myself and my staff, everything started four years ago and how fast the time has flown. I can only be very grateful to those who appointed me on two occasions [President Luis Rubiales and sporting director Jose Molina].

"To all those employed by RFEF with whom we've shared memories and experiences - and of course the players who have been exemplary in their behaviour and loyal to our planned vision, I'm sorry I couldn't help more.

"Also to the support staff - the doctors, physios, kit staff, security and to Nuria Martinez Navas [the team manager of the national team], who worked tirelessly to help the players and the staff in everything that we needed. It has been very special to be a part of this.

"Last but not least, to the fans who have uniformly shown their support for us at all times and especially in the most delicate ones. It's time to say goodbye and in these cases just a little reflection... what the team needs is support in all its meaning so that [new coach] Luis de la Fuente achieves everything he wants. Let's go Spain! Until forever. Thank you."

Will De la Fuente change Spanish mentality?

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Spanish Journalist Alvaro Montero journalist believes that there was a mutual decision made on Luis Enrique leaving the Spanish coaching role

Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero told Sky Sports:

"The feeling is that it's been a decision of Luis Enrique with the Spanish Football Federation, with its president Luis Rubiales. There is an amazing and good relationship, and nobody here in Spain is talking about Enrique getting sacked, but after the tournament and after the World Cup, it's been a decision by the coach and the Spanish Football Federation president.

"Remember that Luis Enrique had a contract with the Spanish national team until December 31, so it's a mutual decision that he's not going to continue as the Spanish national coach.

"The feeling inside the Federation is sadness because they believe in Luis Enrique's way of understanding of football. Spain has done an amazing UEFA Nations League two years ago and last year, playing against France.

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Luis Enrique spoke to the media after Spain’s defeat to Morocco in the World Cup and said he was unsure on his future

"But this decision is one they had to take because Spain have not done a good tournament, and after losing against Morocco, it was the best decision for sure.

"Here in Spain, there's been a lot of press that has criticised the 26 players that Enrique has chosen. There are so many players, for some people, that should have been playing for the Spanish national team in Qatar. The relationship between Luis Enrique and the press was not especially good. Especially, in the last few days.

"De la Fuente is not so well known internationally but it's a continuation for Spain. He's a former football player, a coach for some clubs and in 2013, he arrived almost one decade ago to the Spanish Football Federation, he became the new coach of the under-21s. Many people here in Spain talked about Roberto Martinez as an option after he left Belgium.

"De la Fuente knows very well the young players and the style of play has been based around Tiki-taka for over a decade. It has been criticised here in Spain over the last weeks, especially after losing to Morocco. So let's see if he can change the Spanish mentality, and maybe not have so much possession but score more goals and be more dangerous."

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