A bittersweet turn of events

Robert Moreno during his last game as Spain coach.
Robert Moreno during his last game as Spain coach. / EFE
  • It's a happy return for Luis Enrique as national team coach, but the Federation's discarding of Robert Moreno has drawn plenty of criticism

When Spain completed qualification for the European Championships, we expected an outpouring of emotion - just not the kind we encountered.

Robert Moreno celebrated on the final whistle after hammering Romania to secure a seeded spot in the draw for next summer, but the coach never emerged for the press conference. He was too cut up after being told he was out of the door.

Like Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup finals, he made a sudden departure and was replaced without ceremony. Like Lopetegui, he was undefeated as a manager.

It's a saga in which there were no winners... well, apart from the team who won seven of his nine games on the touchline.

In case you don't know the story so far, Moreno was the trusty assistant to Luis Enrique at Roma, Celta, Barcelona and the national team. He stepped forward when his friend took compassionate leave following the illness and tragic death of his daughter.

Moreno was appointed permanently when Enrique said he didn't want to come back. That was the story until Monday night.

What happened next smacks of the famous fallouts between Brian Clough and Peter Taylor and Alex Ferguson and Brian Kidd.

Clough called Taylor a "rattlesnake" when he left his side at Nottingham Forest, only to emerge at Derby County a few months later. Ferguson labelled Kidd as "insecure" when he took on the Blackburn Rovers number one job in 1989.

On this occasion it's the former assistant who is the upset party. His anger wasn't aimed at his old pal but instead the Spanish Football Federation president.

"They've tossed me aside, they've thrown me aside" was his parting shot. He said: "My experience as the national team manager started and has ended in the same way, with a bittersweet taste."

He felt betrayed but it wasn't helped when his boss Luis Rubiales claimed it wasn't a resignation nor a sacking. The president merely claimed Luis Enrique had walked back through the doors which had always remained open to his return.

In some ways it's so sweet, in others unsavoury.

It's touching that Luis Enrique has been welcomed back after a personal tragedy and he's the kind of successful manager you want leading the nation to a major tournament. Professionally it's probably the right thing to do.

Professional doesn't describe the way they dealt with Moreno. They took the plunge to make his role permanent and then a few months later discarded him even though Moreno had ably guided Spain through the qualifiers.

It now means there's been five changes of manager in seventeen months. Spain should be heading to the Championships as one of the favourites, as they should have gone to Russia as one of the countries to fear.

Spain are afraid of few opponents, however the biggest enemy is themselves.