Real Madrid on Thursday confirmed that Zinedine Zidane has decided to step down as first team coach with immediate effect.
The club confirmed Zidane’s decision in a statement published on their official website.
It read: “Real Madrid C. F. announces that Zinedine Zidane has decided to bring an end to his current spell as head coach of our club.
“We must now respect his decision and express our gratitude for his professionalism, dedication and passion over the years and what he means to Real Madrid.”
This confirmation comes after the Spanish press reported on Thursday morning that Zidane had told both the club and the players of his decision to leave his post on Wednesday.
It ends months of speculation over his future after a season which saw Real Madrid finish without a title of any kind for the first time in 11 years.
Real Madrid finished the domestic campaign second in La Liga, lost the UEFA Champions League semi-final to Chelsea and were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by third-tier side Alcoyano.
Athletic Club Bilbao also beat them in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup.
One of the reasons behind Zidane’s departure is thought to be the lack of public support from the club in difficult moments of the campaign.
One of such was after a difficult period in the autumn when they lost at home to sides such as Cadiz, Alaves and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Another example was again in the New Year after the two Cup defeats.
This is the second time the 48-year-old has left Real Madrid before the end of his contract.
He stepped down as coach in the summer of 2018 days after winning the UEFA Champions League, only to make a surprise return in March 2019.
That was after Santi Solari was sacked after a difficult time in charge.
His second spell saw Real Madrid win the La Liga title in the COVID-affected 2019/2020 season.
In his first spell, the Frenchman led the club to the 2017 La Liga title and three UEFA Champions League ones (2016, 2017 and 2018).
“Zidane is one of Real Madrid’s great icons and his legacy extends beyond what he has achieved as a coach and player at our club.
“He is aware that he has a place in the hearts of the Real Madrid fans and that he will always have a home at Real Madrid,” informed the club.
The search is now on for a new coach with four main candidates.
These are B-team coach Raul Gonzalez, along with Massimiliano Allegri (who is also being linked with Juventus), Antonio Conte and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) coach Mauricio Pochettino.
Whoever takes over will be faced with the task of rejuvenating an aging squad with several players, such as club captain Sergio Ramos, who is likely to leave over the summer. (Xinhua/NAN)