Zinedine Zidane Walks Away From Real Madrid In The Wake Of Third Conquest Of Champions League

The sudden decision came as a shock to everyone -- even to Real Madrid's president.

Zinedine Zidane steps down as Real Madrid manager.
Launrence Griffiths / Getty Images

The sudden decision came as a shock to everyone -- even to Real Madrid's president.

Zinedine Zidane has announced his shock departure as the manager of Real Madrid just five days after creating history with the team by winning his third consecutive Champions League crown, according to ESPN.

Speaking at a press conference beside Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, Zidane insisted that his departure was a personal choice because “there is nothing more to give.” Although it might be viewed as a “mistake” by some, he insisted he felt the time was right to hang up his boots.

“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.”

Zidane was appointed in 2016 after Real Madrid sacked previous boss Rafa Benitez, and despite having been at the helm for less than three years, the former French player guided the star-studded team to nine trophies — three of them being Champions League trophies in consecutive seasons — an unparalleled feat in the history of the game.

Madrid president Florentino Perez, who remains the reigning patriarch at the Spanish club, said that he is as shocked as anyone by Zidane’s sudden decision, claiming he only came to know about the impending departure yesterday, reports Sky Sports. He said he would have wanted Zidane to stay next to him “forever” but could not change the manager’s mind once it was made up.

“As you can imagine after winning the Champions League, to hear this decision is completely unexpected. It is a sad day for me and will be for the fans, the players and everyone at the club,” he said.

Tributes flowed in for Zidane as soon as his departure was announced, with Sergio Ramos being the only Madrid player who had been informed of the manager’s decision beforehand. Apart from him, a bunch of Real Madrid players including Toni Kroos, Alvaro Arbeloa, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, and Isco took to social media to thank the manager for helping write one of the most famous chapters in the history of the club.

It is not yet known exactly what triggered Zidane’s decision to leave, especially so soon after being crowned European champions for the third time in a row, but a few things that he spoke about at the press conference were telling.

“Maybe it’s a mistake. But I feel it’s time. If I don’t think that we can keep winning then it’s time. How can I ask more from the players? Big players need a change.

“If I was the manager here next season, it would have been tough for us to win trophies. You saw in the Copa [del Rey] this season and I can’t forget our domestic campaign that easily.”

Zidane talks about “big players” needing a change, and two players who had previously given hints of leaving are Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, neither of whom has expressed their opinion about the manager’s departure. Whether or not the two players had anything to do with Zidane’s departure remains shrouded in mystery, but it could well be possible that Zidane was referring to them during the press conference.

Meanwhile, now that the manager’s position is vacant, a host of potential replacements are already being dubbed in the media. The manager most likely to take over from Zinedine Zidane seems to be Arsene Wenger, who only a few weeks ago ended his 22-reign at Arsenal. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has been a keen admirer of Arsene Wenger over the years — having offered him the top position at the Spanish club a few times during Wenger’s time at Arsenal — and bookies are now pitching him to be the favorite for the job.

Other managers who might also be on Real Madrid’s radar are Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.