In an unexpected move, Zinedine Zidane has announced he is leaving Real Madrid, just five days after winning a third consecutive Champions League trophy.
Zidane made the announcement at the capital club’s Valdebebas training ground on Tuesday evening.
“This is the right moment for everyone, it might seem a bit strange, but it had to be done for the good of everyone, the players, the club, and myself,” he reportedly told members of the press. “This team must keep winning, and it needs a change after three years, another voice, another method of working.”
“Of course, I could return, I’ll always be near to this club as it’s close to my heart. I think many won’t understand but I know it’s the right time. Time for a change. And for the players too.”
The French manager — who was appointed in January 2016 — won nine trophies in total, including the La Liga title in his first full season. In 2017, he became the first manager to defend the European cup in the Champions League era. Saturday’s 3-1 victory against Liverpool in Kiev extended his remarkable run.
Zidane, under contract until 2020, gave no explicit reason for stepping down, but said he is not currently seeking to coach another team.
Managerial pressure at Los Blancos is known to be at the highest level, with coaches regularly being axed for failing to realise the club’s exceptional ambitions. Zidane himself found his name swirling with exit rumours after a terrible start to the league. After tasting European glory for a third time, however, it seems highly unlikely that he was nudged out the door. Madrid president Florentino Perez, by all accounts, appeared uncomfortable during the outgoing manager’s exit announcement.
“This was a totally unexpected decision and today is a sad day for me and for everyone who works for this club,” Perez said.
“When he says he’s taken a decision though, we have to accept it. I tried to convince him but I know how it is. He knows he has all our love and support. One can’t be prepared for something like this. I remember the first time I went to his house and asked him to coach Real Madrid and he was absolutely convinced he could win things.”
“We must thank him for his care and passion for Real Madrid over these years… The only thing I want to say is hasta pronto [see you soon] because I know he will return, maybe after a rest.”