MADRID: Zinedine Zidane resigned as coach of world and European champions Real Madrid in a rare reversal of roles writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Usually it is president Florentino Perez who reveals the club-ordered departure of a coach. Zidane, aware of the questions bubbling after the Liga ‘failure’ of distant third place behind Barcelona, decided to take the initiative.
In so doing he underlined the failures of other managers to see the future with ego-free clarity.
The 45-year-old Frenchman had delivered Madrid’s their fourth European Cup in five years – third under his management and 13th in all – by masterminding a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Kiev last Saturday.
However, in a hastily-called press conference, Zidane said: “I have taken the decision to not continue going into the next season. For me and for everybody, I think the moment to change has arrived. It was not an easy decision.
“I will be close to this club for the rest of my life. I want to thank the fans, who always supported me both as a coach and a player. There were tough moments during the season and although I was sometimes whistled at, I want to thank the fans.
“This is a beautiful moment as we have just won a third straight Champions League and I have now reflected and made this decision. Even the players need this change, I must thank them too.”
Perez, who accompanied Zidane at the press conference, said: “This was a totally unexpected decision, Zidane informed me of his choice yesterday. I thank him for the work he has done.”
Zidane, the former Real, Juventus and Bordeaux midfielder, was understood to be under contract in Madrid until 2020.
It was on the recommendation of senior players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos that Zidane had been promoted from managing Madrid’s Castilla B team, when Rafael Benitez was sacked in January 2016.
Madrid ended term as runners-up to Barcelona in the league but defeated city rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties in the Champions League final in Milan.
Zidane followed up his maiden Champions League crown as a coach with a LaLiga title and in June 2017 his side delivered a more emphatic European triumph by 4-1 over his old club Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff.
Madrid lost only two of their first 15 league matches in the recently concluded Spanish championship but Ernesto Valverde’s Barca were able to run away with the league after a 3-0 El Clasico win at the Estadio Bernabeu in December.
Zidane may take a break from the game. But, inevitably, speculation will arise about his prospects of succeeding Didier Deschamps as manager of France – with whom he won the World Cup and European Championship as a player – after the imminent World Cup finals in Russia.