By Amaechi Agbo
Yesterday, former Real Madrid coach, Zinedine Zidane, in an impromptu press conference, announced his resignation as the coach of Los Blancos.
The news of his unexpected resignation as the coach of arguably the best team in the world came with a wave of shocks and disbelief.
The former Real, Juventus and Bordeaux midfielder, was under contract in Madrid until 2020. His final game in charge was Saturday’s victory over Liverpool in Kiev in the Champions League.
Zidane departed having never been knocked out of Europe’s elite club competition, he also won La Liga and the Spanish Super Cup once.
He left after guided the Spanish club to three successive Champions League titles and one La Liga success since taking over in January 2016.
Zidane, 45, took over after Rafael Benitez was sacked and was in charge for 149 games. He steered Real to 104 wins and 29 draws, had 69.8% win rate, and won nine trophies.
However, Real finished third in La Liga in 2017-18, 17 points behind champions and fierce rivals Barcelona – while they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage by Leganes.
Zidane said in February he would walk away if he felt “there is nothing more to give”.
However, the timing of his announcement still came as a shock just days after Real beat Liverpool 3-1 in the Champions League final.
Understandably, one would have thought that the coast was clear for the 1998 World Cup winner to cruise and establish a dynasty in the Spanish capital.
Facts have emerged on why the young coach and debatably the most successful coach threw in the towel 5 days after guiding the capital club to its third successive Champions League crown and twelfth in all.
Two factors are being pointed at as the bases for his unexpected departure from his lucrative and enviable post and the more pronounced one is dissent in the Madird squad and dressing room.
It is understood that majority of the players in the team do not listen to him any more thus prompting intense rumoured transfer exit of Madrid’s all-time goal scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Saturday’s Champions League hero, Gareth Bale.
Consequently, Zidane felt that the players are not listening to him and that he’s no longer that important. The dissent in the fold had questioned his influence and importance in the team and he had decided that the best option was for the club to have a new face, a new voice and a new personality to guide the players.
“This team has to continue winning and has to change, after three years they need a new voice, a new way of saying things, perhaps a new way of working.
“I love this club, I love the president who has given me the chance to come as a player and then a manager and I am eternally grateful to him. But today (yesterday) we have to change and that is why I am taking this decision,” Zidane told reporters yesterday.
Stepping up from managing the ‘Castilla’ B team, he replaced Rafael Benitez in January 2016 inheriting a fractured and divided team and although Real were runners-up to Barcelona at the end of the league campaign, he toasted European glory as city rivals Atletico Madrid were vanquished after a penalty shootout 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 Cup final triumph as his former employers, Juventus, were humbled 4-1 in Cardiff.
Although Real lost only two of their first 15 league matches in the recently concluded Spanish championship, Ernesto Valverde’s Barca were able to run away with the league following their vital 3-0 El Clasico win at the Bernabeu in December.
Zidane did stabilise results and duly blazed a trail to Kiev in the continental competition, but reports of dissatisfaction with his approach to domestic matters – namely the handling of star forward Gareth Bale, who has publicly expressed his own unhappiness with a reduced role – meant for regular reports of a potential summer exit.
Zidane left the European champions after winning an unprecedented third straight Champions League title.
Said he “I think it’s the moment, both for me, the team and the club (to step down). It’s a strange moment to do so, I know, but an important one too. I had to do this for everyone,” he said.
“This side should carry on winning and needs a change for this. After three years it needs another voice, another method of work, for this I took this decision.”
Zidane became the first coach to win a third straight European Cup when Real beat Liverpool 3-1 on Saturday, capping a remarkable period in his first job in senior club management.
He claimed the first of his hat-trick of European triumphs two years ago when Real defeated local rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties in the final. A year later he led Real to their first European Cup and La Liga double in 59 years.
Real finished three points ahead of Barcelona as they won their first league title since 2012 before crushing Juventus 4-1 in the Champions League final to become the first side to win the competition in its current format in back-to-back seasons.
Zidane won nine major honours as Real coach and the 45-year-old’s crowning glory came last Saturday as he joined an elite group of managers including Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti by lifting the European Cup for the third time as coach.
With his departure, coaches such as Tottenham boss, Mauricio Pochettino; former Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger and the Italian Maurizio Sarri, most recently of Napoli, have all been linked with the Bernabeu hot seat.
It is also understood that France national team is a potential offer for him in days to come.