Former youth coach to lead Spain
MADRID (Reuters) -- Former Spain youth coach Inaki Saez says that the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has told him he will take charge of the national team for the next two years following Jose Antonio Camacho's decision to step down from his post as coach.
"They (the Federation) have told me that I am the ideal person and that they want me to take the team right through to the Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal," Saez told Spanish sports daily Marca on Wednesday.
Camacho's decision to quit on Tuesday after four years as Spain coach appears to have caught the Federation on the hop and they have clearly not lined up a successor to replace the former Real Madrid defender.
Federation president Angel Maria Villar said that he had only found out about Camacho's decision to resign on Monday evening, while Saez, who was immediately appointed as caretaker coach, said he was only told two hours before the announcement.
"It took me completely by surprise," said Saez. "But he (Camacho) has thought it over carefully, it was his own decision and it has to be respected."
The fact that the Federation appears to have had no inkling of Camacho's intentions means that many of the likely candidates to replace him have already committed themselves to their clubs next season.
The Federation is also unlikely to want to get embroiled in a tug-of-war which might end up jeopardising the good will of the clubs that supply the national team's players.
Atletico Madrid president Jesus Gil has already come out and said that club coach Luis Aragones, who was offered the chance of leading the national team before Camacho, will stay to guide the side on their return to the first division.
Deportivo Coruna coach Javier Irureta has insisted he remains committed to the side he guided to the runners-up place in the league last season, while another of the favourites former Celta Vigo boss Victor Fernandez has only recently signed a two-year deal with Real Betis.
Given the fact that its favoured candidates are unavailable and that Villar has ruled out the appointment of a foreign coach, Saez may well find himself occupying the post on a more permanent basis.
Camacho's resignation may have taken the 59-year-old Basque by surprise, but he believes that he is well-qualified to step into his shoes.
"If I had been told all this a day earlier I would never have believed it," said Saez. "But I haven't done badly with the youth teams and they now want to give me an opportunity.
"I hope it lasts a long time and that I am successful in the job," he added. "I have always dreamed about this and now it has come true."
Saez, a former Athletic Bilbao defender who won three caps for Spain in 1968, began his coaching career at the Basque club.
He had brief spells in charge of the first team in the 1980s and early 1990s, before going on to become coach of the Spanish youth sides in 1996 where he has enjoyed considerable success.
He steered the Under-21s to victory in the European championship in 1998 and then led the Under-20s to the World Youth title the following year.
He coached the Spanish side that won the silver at the Sydney Olympics and has enjoyed recent success with the Under-18 side that finished third in last year's European championship.
Saez's immediate concern as coach will be the qualification for Euro 2004 which begins in September.
Spain have lined up a friendly international in Hungary in August and will then face their first two qualification matches against Greece and Northern Ireland before the end of the year.
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