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.
22. Juni 2018
|Modric is the world´s best number 10 – Arbeloa|
|Kurz stay crucial to Jakobsen´s Adelaide move|
|Nuggets end Porter´s slide at number 14|
|Argentina were crying like girls – Vrsaljko|
|Cavaliers select Sexton with number eight overall pick|
|Argentina must ´pray´ results go their way, says Mascherano|
|Grizzlies select Jackson with number four pick|
|Hawks select Doncic with third pick, trade him to Mavericks|
|Kings take Bagley with number two pick|
|Suns select Ayton number one overall in NBA Draft|
|Argentina concerns grow as Dalic vows to rest players against Iceland|
|Messi could retire after World Cup, says Zabaleta|
|Spieth, McIlroy off to hot starts at Travelers Championship|
|Let Sampaoli say what he wants - Aguero angry at Argentina loss|
|Perisic: Messi is the best, but Argentina do not play as a team|
|Dominant England are ´spoiled´ by options, says Morgan|
21. Juni 2018
|Argentina squad ´clouds´ Messi´s brilliance, claims Sampaoli|
|Fagner to start for Brazil due to Danilo injury|
|Arzani lauds leader Jedinak and remains confident on last-16 chances|
|Croatia cut Messi off in Argentina thrashing - Modric|
|Pogba: Kante, Matuidi have 15 lungs|
|Julian Nagelsmann: the Bundesliga prodigy swapping Hoffenheim for RB Leipzig|
|England dominate in Durham to close in on series whitewash|
|´Fortunate´ Federer closes in on Halle title|
|Calamity Caballero and Sampaoli tinkerings leave Argentina a broken mess|
|Wimbledon champion Muguruza confident despite Birmingham defeat|
|Argentina 0 Croatia 3: Caballero drops clanger as Messi´s men are stunned|
|Funes Mori departs Everton to join Villarreal|
|Djokovic beats Dimitrov as Kyrgios lays down a marker|
|Relegated Verona appoint World Cup winner Grosso|
|Trotz named Islanders´ new coach|
|Matic and Serbia ready for ´hellish´ Switzerland clash|
|Fleetwood flounders as Gros takes Pulheim lead|
|No attacks on Neymar, pledges Costa Rica boss Ramirez|
|Giroud return brings structure to France, but again they disappoint|
|Brighton sign Sunderland goalkeeper Steele|
|Schmeichel and Eriksen blast ´exceptionally harsh´ VAR penalty|
|Nigeria´s young World Cup squad learning on the job - Rohr|
|Moody: England players need protection|
|France 1 Peru 0: Mbappe books last-16 spot with record goal|
|I don´t need anyone to hold my hand - Verstappen|
|Captaincy comes back around to Silva as 2014 pain fades|
|We don´t want to be losers - Petkovic|
|Alba not interested in Barcelona exit as Tottenham rumours swirl|
|BREAKING NEWS: Nagelsmann to take RB Leipzig role in 2019|
|Messi cannot be compared to Maradona, claims Argentina World Cup winner Kempes|
|Mbappe sets France record with maiden World Cup strike|
|Federer comes through tough Halle test|
|Nagelsmann to leave Hoffenheim amid RB Leipzig rumours|
|Gerrard brings former Liverpool team-mate Flanagan to Rangers|
|Cipriani to be ´the calmest guy in the room´ on England return|
|C´est magnifique! Lloris earns 100th France cap|
|Belgium v Tunisia: Hazard hoping for World Cup lift off|
|WATCH: Manchester United ditch piano to welcome Fred the red|
|Hamann springs to defence of Ozil|
|Alonso non-committal on future after Le Mans triumph|
|McInally returns to Scotland starting line-up|
|Giroud & Matuidi start as Deschamps drops Dembele for Peru|
|Torreira focused on Uruguay amid Arsenal links|
|NBA Mock Draft 2018: Deandre Ayton leads intriguing first round|
|Tite will not take away Neymar´s ´genius´|
|Australia show promise but calls for Cahill ignored amid lack of cutting edge|
|Manchester United means greatness - Fred aiming for titles following Old Trafford switch|
|Denmark 1 Australia 1: Jedinak strikes back after Eriksen rocket|
|Neymar not being put at risk by Brazil, says Tite|
|Juventus complete signing of free agent Emre Can|
|Fred completes Manchester United switch|
|Dembele will not join a Spurs rival|
|What were the 0.4 per cent doing? Iceland captain marvels at TV audience|
|Forsberg ready for ´next big step´ after RB Leipzig|