Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane steps down just five days after winning third consecutive Champions League
In what has to be one of the most surprising decisions of the summer, Zinedine Zidane has announced that he will be stepping down as manager of the Los Blancos with immediate effect. The former club legend turned manager had just led his team to an unprecedented third consecutive Champions League title after beating Liverpool in the final in Kiev five days ago and has presumably decided to call it quits on a high.
Zidane called up a press conference on Thursday and informed the gathered journalists of his surprising decision, telling them that 'everything changes' and that's why he took the drastic step. When the former France international and Real Madrid midfielder was hired to replace Rafa Benitez in January 2016, it was considered a risky and bold choice because of his lack of experience — he had only previously managed the team's academy side, Real Madrid Castilla.
But Zidane immediately proved all the doubters and naysayers wrong. In his first half season with the club, he took them to the Champions League final and beat local rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties, also pushing fierce traditional rivals Barcelona close in the race for the Spanish league title.
His second was undoubtedly the most successful. He won them their first league title since 2011/12 with relative ease and then beat Juventus 4-1 in the Champions League final in Cardiff. In doing so, he became the first manager in the modern era to retain the coveted trophy. There were also victories in the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Super Cup along the way, and comparisons were drawn to another former midfielder-turned manager, Pep Guardiola, who had led Barcelona in an era of dominance at the turn of the decade.
This past season was his third, and with the league practically lost before the turn of the year — Barcelona went almost the entire season unbeaten and eventually won the title by 17 points — the team focused its attention on the Champions League once again, looking to retain it for a near-unthinkable third time. Zidane led Madrid through a difficult group consisting of Tottenham Hotspur and Dortmund before beating PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich, and then finally, Liverpool, to lift the big-eared trophy once again.
His work in shifting the transfer strategy of the club away from the so-called 'Galacticos' and focusing on younger talent cannot be understated either. He has changed the philosophy of the club from bottom to top and in every aspect, leaves it better than when he inherited it.
Zidane had proclaimed in February that he would walk away from the job if he felt 'there is nothing more to give,' and he reinforced that statement when he spoke at today's press conference. "I love this club. What I think is that this team needs to continue winning but I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology. And that's why I took this decision."
"It's a strange moment to do so, I know, but an important one too. I had to do this for everyone," he added.
In the end, his record speaks for itself. 149 games: 104 wins, 29 draws, 16 losses, and 9 trophies, unarguably the best Real Madrid manager since the turn of the century. The fact that he can lay claim to being one of their best-ever players as well means that his legacy at the club is nigh on unquestionable, and quite possibly, unsurpassable.