A surprise press conference at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this afternoon piqued the world’s interest, and it was soon confirmed that the Frenchman had indeed resigned from the Spanish giants just five days after claiming his third consecutive Champions League title.
Zidane leaves with a 100% success record in the Champions League and six other trophies in his locker -the 45-year-old won a solitary La Liga title, two Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and one Spanish Super Cup-, as well as multiple club and domestic records broken.
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. – Zinedine Zidane speaking in his press conference.
Florentino Perez stated that Zidane’s exit was a “totally unexpected decision,” leaving a rather large managerial void to be filled.
Whilst the Frenchman has set up a side well-versed in European domination, he’s left a lot to be desired domestically. Last season Los Blancos finished third, 17 points behind the leaders Barcelona.
To read RealSport’s analysis of who should replace Zidane at Real Madrid, click HERE.
It also leaves questions to be answered in terms of Zidane’s next club -or country- and where it leaves the current Real Madrid squad.
RealSport look at the answers.
Zinedine Zidane’s next step
Zinedine Zidane leaves Madrid with three Champions Leagues in two-and-a-half years. That’s more than Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola, and tied with Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley.
Whilst he’s been perfectly adept at getting the most out of his players, by creating a positive, happy atmosphere within the camp, as well as displaying a knack for game-changing substitutions, such as his decision to send on Gareth Bale in last Saturday’s final, there, somehow, remain questions over his suitability at other aspects of the job.
In terms of how his skills from Madrid transfer elsewhere, two jobs stand out.
Les Bleus will most likely begin their search for a new coach after the World Cup if Didier Deschamps fails to win the tournament for the first time since 1998.
Like Madrid, France boast a similar talent pool for Zidane to work with and have strength in depth to last a lifetime. The intrinsic nature of international football, furthermore, calls for a manager skilled in knockout football.
It’s the only other job Zidane has expressed an interest in, and will be a tempting change of pace after the day-to-day intensity of working at Madrid.
Zidane, however, irrespective of his unheralded success, clearly understands his own limitations and skillset, all part of being a smart manager. Hence, his decision to step down at a time where Real Madrid are looking to usher through the next generation and build a sustainable project.
Perhaps, then, France is where his future is best served. He would be perfect: France’s Vicente del Bosque figure.
The reigning French champions are the only other club that would call specifically for his cool head, and with a yet unsatisfied obsession for European glory, their hierarchy is dying for a manager with his record.
However, they have just appointed Thomas Tuchel and will not be looking for anybody else, though there’s potential for his meticulous perfectionism and vehemence not to sit well with their superstars.
Given his record at handling Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s every reason to suggest that he’s the best man to manage Neymar and coax the best out of him.
If Zidane did eventually want a different challenge at club level, he wouldn’t be short of suitors in a couple of years time.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Juventus and Bayern Munich, for example, might be looking for a manager within this time period.
Given the way Real Madrid operate using a series of short-term coaches, and the legacy he has left at the club, he will almost certainly be given opportunities to return and steady the ship again in the future. Like Del Bosque before him, or Jupp Heynckes at Bayern.
Whether he takes them is a different story, though.
The future of the squad
Zidane’s reign was characterised by a sensible moderation in regards to the transfer market. For example, in three Champions League finals, Zidane named the same starting XI in the 2017 and 2018 finals.
In fact, the only ways the 2016 XI differs from those named in the subsequent two years were the starts given to Pepe and Gareth Bale, instead of Raphael Varane and Isco, two players that were at the club anyway before Zidane was appointed.
Traditionally the biggest spenders around, there will be a lot of World Cup talent linked to the Spanish giants this summer.
With big money banked from selling players such as James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata, Ángel di María, Danilo and Jese in recent years, Perez could decide to back the next manager by sending the market into a frenzy with another post-World Cup galactico signing.
There are, however, two immediate issues to resolve for the next manager.
Gareth Bale was effusive after his Man of the Match performance in the Champions League final: he needs minutes, or he will go elsewhere to get them.
I need to be playing week-in, week-out, and that’s not happened this season… I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it. – Bale speaking after the Champions League final.
A favourite of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, this opens the door for him to stay if his new manager gives him a first team role.
His relationship with Zidane wasn’t exactly the smoothest, but his exit changes the complexion of Bale’s standing at the Bernabeu.
Elsewhere, the club’s younger players will be looking for more minutes with the next man.
Theo Hernandez, Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos will all have been frustrated at their lack of first team opportunities under Zidane, whilst Marco Asensio and Lucas Vasquez are pushing for starting roles of their own.
This is where Zidane understood his own limitations in allowing a manager to take over that will make an effort to blood the next generation of Real Madrid superstars and start building with an eye on the future.
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