Like the rest of the football world, Gaizka Mendieta was stunned by the sudden sacking of Spain manager Julen Lopetegui right before the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales, who was just elected to the post last month, took the decision just a day after Lopetegui was named the next Real Madrid head coach, and immediately picked Fernando Hierro to lead the team.

Mendieta was on his way to Malaysia, where he would be part of the Astro SuperSport punditry team during the World Cup, when he heard the news.

"The whole situation is quite unusual and difficult to understand, to be honest," said the 40-time capped former Spain international on Wednesday.

"It is quite a unique situation where the players had been preparing since the qualification, training and playing matches and suddenly the manager was sacked before the first World Cup game.

"At the moment, I don't have much information about it, but for the new president of the federation, who has only been in charge for a few weeks, to take such a drastic measure, it means he evaluated it and considered it the right thing for the national team.

"This let us know that there was something behind the scenes that we are not aware of.

"There must have been a big reason for him to sack the manager days before Spain's first match."

Despite the setback, Mendeita backed the Spain players to regain their focus in time for their crucial first match against Portugal on Saturday morning (Malaysia time).

"Right now it all boils down to the players on how they take every single match and training session at the World Cup.

"The will of the players is to win and they know how important the match against Portugal is after what has happened."