It's unusual to see Sergio Ramos, the pantomime villain of the Champions League final, act as a firefighter but, hours after Julen Lopetegui was sacked as Spain coach, the centre-back was a voice of calm amid the chaos.
"We're the national team, we represent a badge, colours, fans, a country," he tweeted. "Yesterday, today and tomorrow: together."
The tone was right, the message of solidarity important. But it felt like a man politely asking a storm not to blow down his house while the flood waters reached his shoulders.
Lopetegui's dismissal was as momentous as it was horrendously ill-timed. Announced as Real Madrid's next coach on Tuesday, he did not even see out the following 24 hours with his national team.
Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales made sure of that, flying from Moscow to Krasnodar to swing the axe despite a reported two-hour meeting with senior players, who pleaded for a stay of execution.
Ramos was among them, it is said. He's been here before. The defender, along with Andres Iniesta, Pepe Reina and David Silva, is a surviving member of the Euro 2008-winning squad, a group of players who ended Spain's long wait for a trophy despite coach Luis Aragones having been announced as the next Fenerbahce boss during the tournament.
Aragones did take over in Istanbul but only after Spain's triumph, so the argument that Lopetegui had to go for the sake of La Roja's ambitions in Russia simply does not hold water.
The former Porto coach has spent the best part of two years cultivating a squad with experienced heads and younger talents he knows well from the youth set-up.
Would he really have lost focus on his shot at international glory, when Madrid do not play a competitive match for another two months?
29 - Julen Lopetegui has been sacked only 29 hours before the start of the 2018 World Cup— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 13, 2018
He has never lost in 20 games in charge of the National team
Others might claim his new club deal would cause a rift among the players, specifically those from Madrid and Barcelona. Members of this Spain side, Ramos included, survived the fiercest Clasico rivalry in years to win back-to-back European Championships and the World Cup in 2010. In-fighting could not derail those campaigns, so why would this year be any different?
It feels like this was Rubiales' call, perhaps even his alone. He surrendered his vote for the 2026 World Cup hosting rights at the Moscow FIFA Congress to fly more than 1,300 kilometres to Spain's Krasnodar base in order to confront Lopetegui. A shock announcement seemed necessary to justify the expense.
At a delayed news conference, Rubiales spoke of how there are more important things than winning, "such as your way of working", hinting at a seething anger at not being informed about Madrid's discussions with his coach. "The federation cannot be left outside the negotiation of one of its employees and find out five minutes before a public announcement," he said. "That can't happen."
There was an undeniable bitterness, a sense even of betrayal, with Lopetegui having signed a new two-year contract less than three weeks ago. There is also a feeling of Rubiales looking to stamp his authority on a position he has held for barely a month, by taking to task a man 11 years his senior for his conduct.
The concern is that he could have dealt the very sort of damage he has tried to avoid. He has dismissed a coach apparently against the will of a number of players, turned Madrid – Spain's most powerful and popular club – into public enemies of the national team and severed the head of a cohesive outfit who looked primed to challenge for the trophy, four years on from a humbling group-stage exit.
Placing Fernando Hierro in charge, a Spain great who commands respect from the players, seems a perversely sensible stop-gap. In fact, Hierro ironically boasts the very quality Lopetegui will need at Madrid, namely the tact to get a volatile dressing-room pulling in the same direction.
Trouble is, he has 48 hours to do just that, to save Spain from a second nightmare World Cup start in succession. Succeeding Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu looks a breeze by comparison.
|Sassuolo reel in Marlon from Barcelona|
|Formula One ´very poor´, says Alonso after quitting|
|Brighton to host Southampton in EFL Cup second round|
|Tiger Woods´ caddie tried to pay heckler to leave Firestone|
|Sordet leads Nordea Masters, Olesen overcomes flight woes|
|Mourinho visits Istanbul Basaksehir before Burnley game|
|Iniesta hails ´worldwide sports legend´ Alonso|
|Onus on Ozil to rise above criticism, says ex-Arsenal star Wright|
|Lahm to head Euro 2024 if Germany wins bid|
|Tennis Australia ´extremely disappointed´ with Davis Cup revamp|
|Snedeker shoots 59 at Wyndham, after bogeying his first hole!|
|Lukaku hints at Belgium retirement after Euro 2020|
|Pellegrini rules out West Ham approach for Toure|
|Association of Spanish Footballers fumes at LaLiga´s US agreement|
|Seibold and Bennett hit out at media speculation|
|Cipriani ´truly sorry´ after pleading guilty to common assault|
|Man City´s Roberts makes Girona loan move|
|Davis Cup revamp passed by two-thirds majority vote|
|Pochettino ready to tackle Man City after Wembley NFL|
|Emery ends Arsenal goalkeeper debate with Cech assurance|
|Shastri: India happy to face Stokes in Nottingham|
|Etzebeth returns for Springboks, Pumas include Figallo|
|Two Serie A matches postponed after Genoa bridge collapse|
|Barrett tight-lipped over Manly future due to ´legal reasons´|
|N´Zonzi is better than Malcom - Monchi takes aim at Barca star|
|Sainz to replace Alonso at McLaren|
|Bayliss encourages Stokes to make public apology|
|Oates hat-trick boosts Broncos´ play-off ambitions|
|Emery needs four transfer windows to impact Arsenal – Wright|
|Spain´s LaLiga plans to play regular-season game in U.S.|
|´Dream come true´ for Robertson to earn Bledisloe Cup start|
|LaLiga match set for USA following groundbreaking Relevent deal|
|FIFA rankings: France number one, Croatia and England soar, Germany and Argentina plummet|
|Hansen hails ´big leader´ Whitelock ahead of 100th cap|
|Cipriani pleads guilty to common assault and resisting arrest|
|PSG snap up Kehrer from Schalke|
|Maitland-Niles facing two months out with broken leg|
|Walker backs City squad strength to overcome De Bruyne blow|
|Thomas & Froome skip Vuelta, named in Tour of Britain squad|
|Thurston rules out retirement U-turn|
|Pumas look to build on Jaguares progress in Rugby Championship|
|Super Cup glory will make Atletico strong - Simeone|
|Rugby Championship 2018: True status of Erasmus´ Springboks rebuild to be discovered|
|LaLiga 2018-19: Coutinho ready to be Barca´s next Brazilian superstar|
|Serie A 2018-19: Can Napoli, Roma, Inter or AC Milan overhaul Juventus?|
|Braves survive skirmish, loss of Acuna to top Marlins|
|Robertson handed surprise start, Hodge gets nod for Bledisloe opener|
|MLS Review: Wayne´s World as Rooney inspires DC United, LAFC win|
|Djokovic and Dimitrov survive but Zverev loses in Cincinnati|
|Rain halts Halep as Muguruza´s defence ends and Wozniacki retires|
|Ozil´s racism claims nonsense, says Kroos|
|Malcom lost for words after Camp Nou bow alongside Messi|
|Injured Fowler withdraws from play-off opening Northern Trust|
|Marcelo happy with Madrid squad amid transfer talk|
|Foles isn´t worried about Brady´s handshake snub|
|Eli Manning on Jalen Ramsey´s comments: ´Who?´|
|Cerezo: Atletico´s objective is to reach Champions League final|
|Judge´s recovery taking longer than expected|
|Ronaldo in the past as Casemiro backs Lopetegui after Madrid loss|
|With our ´cojones´ Atletico can beat anyone – Costa revels in Super Cup glory|
|Super Cup loss doesn´t change Real Madrid transfer policy, says Lopetegui|
|Griezmann: Super Cup triumph justifies staying at Atletico|
|Valverde defends Suarez performances|
|Simeone´s eclipses Aragones as Atletico´s top coach with seventh title|
|Rockets GM: LeBron James is ´the greatest ever´|
|Salihamidzic, Kovac not standing in way of Rudy exit|
|Jaguars DB Ramsey calls Bills QB Allen ´trash´|
|Real Madrid 2 Atletico Madrid 4 (after extra time): Saul stunner seals Super Cup glory|
|Ex-India Test captain Wadekar dies aged 77|
|Gundogan ready to step up in absence of injured De Bruyne|