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Spain coach Luis Enrique stepping down for personal reasons

June 19, 2019
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FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2018 file photo, Spain's national soccer coach Luis Enrique gestures before the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Spain and England at Benito Villamarin stadium, in Seville, Spain. Luis Enrique is stepping down as coach for the Spanish national team for personal reasons it was announced by Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales on Wednesday June 19, 2019. Assistant coach Robert Moreno will take over. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti, File)
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FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2018 file photo, Spain's national soccer coach Luis Enrique gestures before the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Spain and England at Benito Villamarin stadium, in Seville, Spain. Luis Enrique is stepping down as coach for the Spanish national team for personal reasons it was announced by Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales on Wednesday June 19, 2019. Assistant coach Robert Moreno will take over. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti, File)

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish national team will be in the hands of inexperienced coach Robert Moreno after Luis Enrique said Wednesday he was stepping down because of an undisclosed family issue that had kept him away from the team for months.

Luis Enrique said in a statement published by the federation that “due to reasons that have impeded me from carrying out the normal tasks as the national team coach since March, today I have decided to step down.”

Moreno has been in charge of running of the team since Luis Enrique had to step away for what the federation said were “family reasons.”

Since then, Luis Enrique had continued working remotely from his home in Barcelona, receiving video feeds of practices and talking to Moreno and his other assistants.

Federation president Luis Rubiales said Luis Enrique was experiencing a “very difficult moment” and asked for the media to respect the coach’s privacy.

The federation said that Moreno will be its coach through the 2020 European Championship.

Moreno has never been a first-team coach. He has formed part of Luis Enrique’s staff for nine years, working with him at Barcelona for three seasons before coming with him to Spain last year.

“I think I have experience,” Moreno said. “I have been with Luis (Enrique) nine years. I have been a sponge and absorbed all I can. ... Luis showed me how to handle a changing room, how to handle the press. I completely believe we will do a good job.”

Luis Enrique, a former Barcelona coach and player, was named Spain coach following last year’s World Cup. He coached the team through the Nations League and its first European Championship qualifier, a 2-1 win over Norway.

Spain has won all three of its European qualifiers with Moreno on the sideline for matches against Malta, the Faeroe Islands and Sweden.

The 41-year-old Moreno, who holds a university degree in commerce and international relations, was practically unknown in Spain until he had to fill in for Luis Enrique.

The Barcelona native worked for Luis Enrique at Celta Vigo, Roma and Barcelona, where they guided a team led by Lionel Messi to a Champions League title among other trophies.

“I have mixed feelings. I am sad, and at the same time, not happy, but with a sense of responsibility,” Moreno said. “I always thought since I was 14 years old that one day I would become a coach at the top level, but I never imagined it would be this way. These are special circumstances, but the most important thing is that we have the backing of Luis (Enrique).”

It has been a topsy-turvy year for Spain’s coaches.

Last year, Rubiales fired coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup after he announced he had agreed to become Real Madrid’s coach after the tournament. The team then flopped under caretaker coach Fernando Hierro.

Spain now has until September’s qualifier at Romania to adjust to its latest coaching change.

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