Who in the world is emergency Spain manager Fernando Hierro?
The past few days have seen Spain shock the football world. First, Real Madrid announced Spain manager Julen Lopetegui would succeed Zinedine Zidane at following the World Cup. Then, the RFEF declared there was no need to wait. Lopetegui was no longer going to lead his nation’s World Cup campaign and was relieved of his duties with immediate effect. While the world wondered what RFEF president Luis Rubiales would do, he swiftly appointed Real Madrid and Spain legend, Bolton’s fifth-best ever player, Fernando Hierro to take the team through the World Cup. What can we expect from Hierro?
The situation recalls Brazil in 1970 situation. Joao Saldhana was sacked after the Selecao qualified. Mario Zagallo then took the reins and led the team to the World Cup. A coach with a reputation for playing cautiously (as evidenced by Brazil in 1974) Zagallo decided to forego his natural instincts and stick to Saldanha's principles. The result is the stuff of legend. Pele won his final World Cup, Brazil their third, for which they were permanently awarded the Jules Rimet trophy.
Could Hierro follow Zagallo's lead? Simply come in and steer the ship on the course prepared by Lopetegui, keeping the same line-up, shape and style? There’s certainly an argument to be made for doing so. Lopetegui was undefeated as Spain boss and if Zagallo wasn’t prepared to disrupt everything with months to prepare it makes little sense for Hierro to try in just two days.
But if Hierro was to change things, what would he do? Sadly, we have very little to go on here. Hierro has just one season's experience as a manager: 2016/17 with Real Oviedo. The Carbayones just missed out on the promotion playoff. Hierro departed by 'mutual consent'. All we really know is that isn't a phrase one wishes to define the new boss of the world's tenth-best team.
The information also does little to help us define Hierro’s style and philosophy. Oviedo won 17 and lost 16 of his 43 games, scoring 50 goals and conceding 51. If we can take anything away from the numbers, it's a hint Hierro played a very open style. But, as already stated, it seems unlikely Hierro will change much, if anything, heading into the tournament.
Reports leaked that Sergio Ramos was furious at the decision to remove Lopetegui. As a former Real player, could Hierro's appointment be a move designed to placate the captain and, by association, his allies?
One last question remains to be answered. Does Hierro want the job permanently? One job for one season during ten years' retirement from playing infers Hierro hasn’t been bitten by the managerial bug. Unless he is an extremely patient man who feels the right job hasn't come along. If he does have the desire to take the role on full time then now is the perfect opportunity to show his mettle. What better audition could there be than guiding the team all the way to their second World Cup? Even if Spain didn’t win, Hierro could still take the job fulltime if Spain put up a strong fight. He could argue that more could have been done had time been afforded.
Only Hierro knows his mind. One thing is certain. If he doesn’t want the job, there will be some nervous club chairmen come July 16th.