In one of the surprises of the summer, Zinedine Zidane has resigned as manager of Real Madrid less than a week after becoming the first manager in history to win the Champions League three times in a row.
His third -and Real Madrid’s 13th- European title was the ninth trophy the Frenchman had won in his three-year stint at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Zidane won everything as a player with Real Madrid, retired and joined the backroom staff before returning to the fore as a manager and winning everything available… again. He leaves on a high with his legendary legacy completely intact.
With Los Blancos now managerless, they’ll be searching for the ideal candidate to help usher in the new era of success, especially at a time when both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are reportedly leaving the club.
RealSport examine their options.
1 Mauricio Pochettino
Current club: Tottenham Hotspur
Florentino Perez should have one target, and one target only in mind: Mauricio Pochettino.
Forget the argument that the Argentine has failed to win a major trophy thus far in his managerial career and look at what he actually brings to the table.
Pochettino has transformed Spurs from a team consistently on the fringes, to one now at home in the Premier League top four and on the brink of success. Not to mention he's highly adept at working within constrained means.
As a result, Pochettino has forged a reputation as a fantastic coach, able to bring the best out of his players. His work with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose is a mere testament to his coaching ability.
Who better to see in the new era of Real Madrid football than Pochettino? It makes sense given the young talent in the ranks of the club, such as Marco Asensio, Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos.
The 46-year-old additionally brings with him an attacking brand of football,---both successful on the pitch and pleasing aesthetically-, one preachable throughout all levels of the club.
The only problem is that Pochettino just signed a new five-year deal with Tottenham -and he's not yet tested in man-managing 'bigger than the team' personalities-, but when Real Madrid come calling, can he really say no?
2 Arsene Wenger
Current club: N/A
Arsene Wenger stepped down after 22 years as Arsenal manager before the end of the 2017/18 season and has since risen to become the bookmakers' favourite to succeed Zidane at Real Madrid.
Perhaps because he's the only manager actually available...
The former Gunners boss is no stranger to success -having overseen three Premier League victories and seven FA Cups, three of which came in the four years from 2013 to 2017- and is currently unattached since leaving the Emirates.
Wenger has managed some big personalities over the years in north London and promotes an attractive, attacking brand of football. However, he's seen his stock significantly fall over the past five seasons or so and he's perhaps over the hill of elite club management.
3 Maurizio Sarri
REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Current club: N/A
Chelsea must be slightly anxious at not having sealed a deal for former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri now that the Real Madrid job has become available.
Sarri has been turning heads since his arrival in Naples in 2015, guiding them to two second-place finishes and one third in the subsequent three years, with an impressive 65.9% win ratio in Serie A.
Most noteworthy, though, is the fact that Sarri constructed a side capable of challenging Juventus' monopoly on the Italian top-flight, becoming the first side in Italian history to gain over 90 points and not win the title.
The 59-year-old is another manager capable of bringing the best out of his players, promoting an attacking philosophy in the process and deploying a 4-3-3 formation, one that fits the personnel at Real Madrid and, thus, requires little adaptation.
It does make for suspicious timing given that Sarri's release clause expires at midnight tonight...
4 Antonio Conte
Current club: Chelsea
It's no secret that Chelsea are looking to offload Antonio Conte this summer and it would bring a smile to Roman Abramovich's face if another club were to buy him out of his contract as opposed to the Blues having to pay him off.
It's not as if Real Madrid are a club in need of a quick fix -Zidane has left them in a fantastic position for the future-, but you need only look at what Conte engineered with Chelsea to understand his quality.
Despite a poor Premier League campaign this season, the Italian provided organisation and structure to the side, as well as an initial sense of togetherness.
However, what his stint at Chelsea does highlight is his inability to handle the big names of the dressing room -namely Eden Hazard. This might rule him out of the running for the Madrid vacancy, as the relationship between the club and Ronaldo is fractious enough already.
Moreover, the way in which Conte's Chelsea fell apart demonstrates a lack of managerial longevity.
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