Roberto Martinez has revealed the Belgium squad were aware he was stepping down as manager ahead of the country’s crucial World Cup group stage match against Croatia.
Martinez left his role as Belgium manager following a disappointing World Cup campaign in Qatar, with the nation suffering a group stage exit despite being ranked second in the world by FIFA at the time.
The Spanish coach told Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws he had informed players of his decision to step down after the tournament after their group stage loss to Morocco.
“I had never done it before and hope I never have to do it again. I couldn’t control all the emotions anymore.”
Martinez’s revelation meant Belgium’s players were aware the group stage clash with Croatia could be his final match in charge after six years, having coached the team since 2016.
Belgium played out a goalless draw with Croatia after spurning a series of opportunities, with the result seeing them fail to advance to the knock-out stages of the tournament.
Martinez claimed he would “cherish the memory” of how the Belgian squad reacted to the news of his impending exit.
The 49-year-old insisted the players cared for each other, despite reports of splits within the squad, which intensified following the shock 2-0 loss to Morocco.
“What happens in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room, it’s a sacred place,”
“Did the players talk to each other? Yes.”
“Everyone shared their thoughts and emotions. It was human quality.
“In fact, it was the complete opposite of what the press claimed. They wouldn’t care about each other. It was far from it.
“I cherish that memory.”Martinez said.
Belgium’s World Cup campaign had been dominated by reports of tension within the camp, after Kevin De Bruyne suggested his side were ‘too old’ to go the distance.
Defender Jan Vertonghen had appeared to hit back at the comment after the loss to Morocco, claiming “We probably also attack badly because we are too old, that must be it now, surely?”
Despite boasting a series of star names, and poor performances on the field led to an embarrassing early exit for a highly fancied side.
Martinez had led Belgium to a third place finish at the World Cup in Russia in 2018, representing the nation’s best performance at the tournament, but was unable to secure a first major international title.
The Spaniard has been viewed by some as having underachieved with a so-called “golden generation” of Belgian talent.
Since taking the job, the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Dries Mertens, Thibaut Courtois and Thomas Meunier have all been in their prime and featured heavily.
Martinez had been considered as a contender to take over at Club Brugge, prior to the Belgian side announcing Scott Parker as their new manager.
The Belgian FA are seeking Martinez’s successor, with the organisation having posted an advert for his successor.
The advert said the organisations wants to hire a coach who is “extremely ambitious” and has “experience in managing top players”.