Spanish Football Expert & Columnist @GuillemBalague
Guillem Balague talks to new Spain boss Julen Lopetegui
Last Updated: 23/07/16 1:46pm
New Spain boss Julen Lopetegui speaks exclusively to Guillem Balague, as he reveals why he turned down Wolves for his national team.
At last, after a long and drawn out negotiation process, it's all change at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
However, due to the slowness of it, Julen Lopetegui will not become their new manager, despite the work that he had already been putting in place preparing his arrival.
For a long while, all bets were off as to who the new Wolves boss would be following an expected Chinese takeover, with former Porto and Spain Under-19, U20 and U21 boss Lopetegui destined for the role.
In the end, Lopetegui found the calling of his nation was too big a challenge to turn down. He will now follow in the footsteps of Luis Aragones and Vicente del Bosque as head coach of the Spanish national side.
Yet it was a close run thing that nearly saw Spain lose out to the Midlands club.
On Friday, as Lopetegui prepared for his new role that will see him try to restore the Spanish side to its former glories, his first thoughts were for Kenny Jackett and his coaching staff at Wolves, saying, in an exclusive chat with me for Sky Sports, he understood how uncomfortable the whole situation had been for everyone, including himself.
"I know how difficult it can be to carry on as normal with all this going around and I want to put on record my maximum respect for him and all his staff throughout this whole situation," he said. "The timing was not down to me, and Mr Jackett behaved throughout it all in a magnificent exemplary manner."
In the end, Lopetegui found the calling of his nation was too big a challenge to turn down.
Lopetegui added: "I was waiting to hear about an agreement that I had in place about what was an incredibly attractive and exciting project at Wolves.
"Certainly if the Spanish job hadn't come up, I know I would now be coach at Wolverhampton."
Lopetegui had resisted initial approaches from the Spanish federation to become the Wolves manager, but finally the pressure and the slowness of the red tape was too much for him and he found himself in a position where he had to take a decision. The same day he signed with the Spanish FA, the takeover was confirmed.
And while the new owners are indeed a Chinese company, Fosun International, the name of Robin Li - the Chinese multi-billionaire originally thought to be the man behind the takeover - has dropped off the radar - or has it?
When I asked Lopetegui about the involvement of Robin Li in the negotiations, the new Spain coach told me that he is the main man behind "the group" that has taken over Wolves.
"We were looking forward to working with a great project, looking to build the future, but the truth is when your country calls you, obviously everything changes.
"I was very keen to come to England. There were so many positives. Wolves are a great, historic club, with fantastic fans, with an infrastructure to become [one] of the great clubs."
I was very keen to come to England. There were so many positives. Wolves are a great, historic club, with fantastic fans, with an infrastructure to become [one] of the great clubs.
Explaining his reason for taking the Spain job, he added: "When they call you and they ask you if you are prepared to take the reins of the national team, it's because they believe you are the man to do the job and in the end - although you know it is a tremendous responsibility - that is overtaken by the joy and honour of being thought worthy of the job."
Instead of the cut and thrust of an exhausting Championship league programme, Lopetegui's immediate future will now ultimately be decided by 10 matches against Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Israel and Liechtenstein as Spain look to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.
"We need to know what our strengths are and where we need to get better," he said. "We know that our rivals have learnt how to counter Spain's domination of the game and now is the time for us to find an answer to the rivals we are facing. Effectively, it is to have a response to our opponents without losing our essence.
"What I feel more than everything at the moment is a pride and happiness and a hope that the side can return to winning ways."