Real Madrid have sacked head coach Rafael Benitez after just seven months in charge and appointed Zinedine Zidane as his successor.
Benitez, 55, has paid the price for an uninspiring start to the season with Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Valencia leaving Madrid third in La Liga, four points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid and two behind arch-rivals Barcelona, who also have a game in hand.
Results on the pitch only tell half the story, though, with persistent rumours that senior players at the Santiago Bernabeu were underwhelmed by Benitez’s cautious approach.
And with fans also voicing their disapproval – Benitez’s name was loudly whistled when read out ahead of the game against Real Sociedad on December 30 – the writing has appeared on the wall for some time.
Madrid president Florentino Perez called an emergency board meeting on Monday after which it was confirmed Benitez had been dismissed and Zidane drafted in.
Speaking at a media conference to announce the news, Perez said: “I am here to say that the board has just decided, in a difficult decision, especially for me, to end contract of Rafa as first-team coach. I would like to make it clear that he is a great professional.
“Zinedine Zidane knows better than anyone what it is like to stand at the front and lead Real Madrid. Throughout his career he has always been able to face up to huge challenges.
“He is one of the greatest players of all time. Zinedine, this is your club, your stadium and you have all our support. Zidane you are, from this moment, the trainer of Real Madrid.”
The length of Zidane’s contract has not yet been confirmed, with the 43-year-old set to hold his first media conference as first-team boss at around 13:00 local time on Tuesday.
Former France midfielder Zidane made over 150 appearances for Madrid between 2001-2006 before starting his coaching career in 2013 under then Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti.
He then assumed control of Castilla – Real Madrid’s reserve side – during which time he gained his UEFA Pro Licence.