Who is Luis de la Fuente? Spain’s new national team manager named to replace Luis Enrique
Everything you need to know about the new manager of the Spain national team.
In the end, the sadness perhaps didn’t come from the fact that it happened, but the sheer predictability of it all. And by all I mean absolutely everything, right down to who took the penalty for the other team that sealed Spain’s fate and caused them to land back in Madrid on Wednesday 7 December instead of Monday 19 December with a golden trophy in Sergio Busquets’ hands.
Death by 10,50 attempted horizontal passes, most of which went nowhere until Nico Williams came on. Then he was taken off for the penalty specialist who subsequently missed for La Roja, setting them on the track for Spanish-born Achraf Hakimi to guide a panenka past Unai Simón and send Morocco through to their first ever World Cup quarter final.
Luis Enrique is no longer the manager of the Spanish national team. The statement from the Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) sacked the Galician by saying everything exactly that, the board showing the same sense of indirectness as Luis Enrique’s team did in the Round of 16. “The sporting director of the RFEF (José Francisco Molina) has shown a report to the President (Luis Rubiales) which shows a new project for the National Team must begin, with the objective of continuing the growth achieved in the last few years by Luis Enrique and his staff. Both the PResident and the Sporting Director have told the coach of the decision that has been taken.
Who is the new manager of the Spanish national team?
The name of Marcelino had been suggested by many among the media both in Spain and beyond. It would perhaps not have been the most radical of choices, but it definitely would not have been a continuation of the thread that has led Spain to this points with all the ups and downs along the way. Marcelino is a more bread-and-butter kind of manager, 4-4-2 and to the point, something most people were shouting for from their balconies across the country in the wake of the World Cup exit. Despite the cries, maybe the jump would have been turning the ship around too far and too quickly. A happy medium needed to be found.
And so, it will in fact be ex-Under 21 coach Luis de la Fuente who will take charge. Born in La Rioja, a region of Spain famous for its wine, Luis de la Fuente started out as a professional footballer playing for the B-team of the biggest side in the vicinity, the imaginatively named Bilbao Athletic, as a left-back. He moved through the ranks and played 146 times for the first team, winning two league titles before moves to Sevilla and Alavés came either side of a return to Athletic Club.
His playing career ended in the mid-90s and his managerial one picked up soon after, with a role at regional side Portugalete, in the Basque Country. From there he took charge of another Basque side, Aurrerá, before becoming coach of Bilbao Athletic, where he played for four years. A stint at Alavés came in 2011, 17 years after he made his debut for them as a player but he only lasted from July until October before he was sacked after 3 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses.
It was here that the Spanish Federation took a shining to De la Fuente and appointed him Under-19 coach of the men’s national team. On 19 June 2015, he led the side to become the Under-19 European Champions before winning Gold with the Under-18s at the Mediterranean Games three years later.
Three years after that, due to the resignation of Albert Celades, he became the manager of the Under-21 side and subsequently won the European Championship of the age group after goals from Fabián Ruíz and Dani Olmo defeated Germany. Olympic Silver came next in the delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo after his team got the final before losing to Brazil.
And now, one more rung on the ladder has appeared for Luis de la Fuente, as his time has finally arrived to take charge of the first team. His first job is to wait, as his appointment is pending board approval, but after this formality he will have to take a deflated side and build them up again, giving them a new way of playing (within the realms of the reasonable) and bring them to the top. European Qualification awaits, as the football cycle never stops and Germany will soon be hosting the European Championships in 2024, but not before the Nations League final four in the Netherlands in 2023.