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Who is Luis de la Fuente, the new Spain coach

Although it was said that it would be next week before they made a decision on Luis Enrique’s future at the helm of “La Roja” and whether to appoint a new coach, the Spanish have moved faster than expected. The coach who claimed responsibility for the “Round of 16” exit at the World Cup in Qatar had ended his contract with the Royal Spanish Football Federation, so his place had become vacant.

The RFEF moved quickly, however, and has already announced the name of the new coach on the very day of Luis Enrique’s departure. This time the Spanish FA has gone for an “insider”. Luis de la Fuente, 61, until now the coach of the U21 team, has been chosen by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to take over Spain’s senior national team after deciding not to extend Luis Enrique Martínez’s contract. The appointment of the new coach is due to be approved by the board on 12 December.

“The RFEF has chosen Luis de la Fuente as the new national team coach. The sporting director, José Francisco Molina, presented a report to the president, Luis Rubiales, recommending the choice of the coach from La Rioja, until now the U21 coach, to lead the new phase starting after the World Cup in Qatar,” the federation said in a press release.

The decision taken by the federation agreed between Molina and Rubiales, is based on the continuity of a style that has been developed among youngsters. It values the figure of a coach who knows and has won titles with new generations who have already made the leap to the senior team with Luis Enrique. In short, Spain is trying to copy the Ajax and Barcelona model of promoting the same style to a team at all age groups.

“Luis de la Fuente (Haro, 1961) has successfully coached the national youth teams since his arrival at the RFEF,” said the federation, which recalled that in 2015 he was crowned European champion with the U-19 team and in 2018 he won the gold medal at the Mediterranean Games with the U-18 team.

Then, in July 2018, he was appointed U21 coach, and a year later, in 2019, he was proclaimed European champion in Italy, winning his fifth title for Spain after defeating Germany in the final (2-1). He was also an Olympic coach, winning a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Luis de la Fuente’s debut on the bench will take place on 25 March 2023 against Norway in the first round of Euro 2024 preliminaries.

De la Fuente has only coached the senior team once before, in the Euro 2020 warm-up friendly in the summer of 2021, when Sergio Busquets’ positive COVID-19 test led to the isolation of the other internationals, and it was the U21s who faced Lithuania in Butarque. The result was a 4-0 defeat for La Roja.

As a footballer, Luis de la Fuente played as a left-back for Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and Deportivo Alaves. He has amassed over 300 Primera Division appearances, scoring 9 goals at the top flight level. Before retiring from playing at the age of 33, de la Fuente was twice crowned Spanish champion with Athletic Bilbao, in 1983 and 1984.

He never made it to the Spanish national team as a player but did collect 9 caps for the youth teams, U18, U21 and U23.

As a coach, before coming to work for the Federation, he only trained club teams at a small level. He coached Portugalete, Aurrera, Athletic Bilbao’s second team, his peak being half a season on the Deportivo Alaves bench in 2011.

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