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.
|´Genius´ Messi still amazes Valverde|
|All Blacks, Springboks await Namibia at Rugby World Cup|
|Federer to face Djokovic after Goffin withdraws|
|Rain halts plays at Wyndham Championship|
|De Gea will extend contract soon, says Mourinho|
|Halep to meet Bertens in Cincinnati final|
|Frampton set for Warrington fight after dominant Windsor Park win|
|Messi makes LaLiga history with Barcelona´s 6000th goal|
|MC Alger defeat throws quarter-final chase wide open|
|Barcelona 3 Deportivo Alaves 0: Messi´s milestone goal sets up victory|
|Djokovic on course for Masters 1000 history after Cilic victory|
|It´s on! - Wilder fight confirmed after Fury defeats Pianeta|
|Like Cruyff before him, Guardiola favouring Foden´s style over substance|
|Ronaldo tweets debut delight after Juve win|
|Chelsea are not title contenders yet, claims Sarri|
|Bayern Munich boss Kovac planning for Boateng stay|
|Championship Review: West Brom crush QPR as Leeds stay perfect|
|Allegri pleased with Ronaldo despite goalless Juventus debut|
|Chelsea can produce magic with Sarri in charge - Hazard|
|Emery ´happy without the result´ as Arsenal comeback falls short|
|Gordon confirms Cleveland Browns return|
|Eight shots and only 30 passes - Ronaldo´s Juventus debut in Opta numbers|
|Cristiano Ronaldo´s debuts: Best impressed, scoring a penalty & a blank for Juventus|
|Old boy Escare haunts Catalans in big Wigan win|
|Preston North End 2 Stoke City 2: Super sub Crouch salvages a point|
|Pochettino vows not to discuss Alderweireld future before five-minute answer|
|Waring, Aiken lead the way as Olesen stays in the hunt|
|Linking play, forcing saves and clashing with goalkeeper - Cristiano Ronaldo´s Juventus debut|
|Chelsea 3 Arsenal 2: Alonso snatches win after Gunners comeback|
|West Ham still haunted by last season - Pellegrini|
|Puel defends Vardy after Wolves red card|
|Chievo 2 Juventus 3: Ronaldo´s debut ends in dramatic win|
|Mbappe: Neymar is Paris Saint-Germain´s superstar|
|Pickford should have seen red - Hughes fumes over challenge on Ings|
|Kohli and Rahane star as India edge day one|
|AC Milan´s Strinic sidelined by heart problem|
|Kane happy to banish August goal hoodoo|
|Guingamp 1 Paris Saint-Germain 3: Mbappe returns to inspire comeback|
|Springboks´ second-half revival punishes Pumas|
|Finally! Kane scores a Premier League goal in August|
|Warnock enjoyed ´poetic justice´ of Kenedy´s penalty woe|
|Holders Eintracht Frankfurt stunned by Ulm in DFB-Pokal|
|West Ham 1 Bournemouth 2: Wilson, Cook condemn Hammers to successive losses|
|Tottenham 3 Fulham 1: Trippier and Kane help Spurs avoid Wembley wobble|
|Leicester City 2 Wolves 0: Lucky Foxes win despite Vardy red card|
|Everton 2 Southampton 1: Richarlison continues fine start|
|Drochtersen/Assel 0 Bayern Munich 1: Lewandowski spares Bayern´s blushes|
|Violent hack, no passes, missed penalty - Kenedy´s Cardiff nightmare|
|Ronaldo handed Juventus debut against Chievo|
|Cheika and Hooper frustrated by second-half slump|
|Hansen issues warning after All Blacks win Wallabies ´prizefight´|
|Stuttgart stay good for Pavard, says Reschke|
|You can´t buy class - United boss Mourinho blasts City documentary|
|Cardiff City 0 Newcastle United 0: Penalty miss rounds off abject day for Kenedy|
|Lopetegui open to rotating Real Madrid goalkeepers|
|´World´s best´ Alisson will be difficult to replace, says Roma boss Di Francesco|
|Dragons and Sharks pounce on Panthers after four get sin-binned|
|AC Milan situation has proved FFP works - UEFA president Ceferin|
|Marseille´s Garcia uninterested in striker despite Balotelli link|
|Goodhue sparkles on debut as All Blacks thump Wallabies|
|I feel like chicken tonight - Saunders game for a laugh after Wilder fowl play|
|Aubameyang-Lacazette partnership possible for Arsenal|
|Pant handed debut as India ring changes at Trent Bridge|
|Pochettino pledges to protect Kane|
|Federer relieved to ´hang tough´ in Cincinnati|
|De Bruyne injury: Can Foden or Diaz replace Man City playmaker?|
|Furyk confident as Team USA takes shape|
|Neymar´s behaviour deserves praise, Tite claims|
|Scherzer, Harper lead Nationals past Marlins|
|Djokovic and Federer join Cilic, Goffin in Cincinnati semis|