Zinedine Zidane walks away from Real Madrid the ultimate champion
Just when we thought the European football season was over, and it was time to gear up for the World Cup, Zinedine Zidane delivered a headbutt to the entire football world's chest. Zizou called an impromptu press conference to announce his departure from Real Madrid. For the nth time, Zidane professed his undying love for Les Merengues before heading towards the door. Who saw that coming?
Well, he did warn us a month or so ago.
Being a coach is extremely tiring, more so at a club like Real Madrid. When I feel there is nothing more to give, I'll walk away.
Only on the weekend, Zidane was leading his charges in Kiev, piling misery on Liverpool, winning a third straight Champions League. With his achievements; a 69.8% win rate and nine trophies in 149 matches, was there anything left to give? The French legend leaves with his name crested among Madrid’s greatest managers and when the ovation is loudest.
What's next for Real Madrid?
No one can be certain what might have been had Zidane stayed on at the Bernabeu. Nor can anyone take away what he did for the club. They are relevant again.
His man-management was excellent. Kept the dressing on the ice and rotated the fringe players satisfactorily. Following Zizou’s exit, time might be up for players like Karim Benzema and Keylor Navas, whose confidence was boosted by the boss. Ronaldo may get a new contract. He may leave. Gareth Bale, too.
Barring the few feathers that will surely be ruffled when a new manager arrives, the European Champions are still expected to parade a trophy-winning squad next season.
Who is next for Real Madrid?
Once an integral member of the Galacticos as a playmaker, Zinedine Zidane, leaves Real with an unmistakable managerial vacuum in his wake. Jobs in European football don’t come any bigger than Real Madrid’s. There is enough magnetic force to pull even the best managers still on a contract anywhere else. With Zidane’s exit, Real are on the hunt for their fourth manager in five years.
The gauntlet is thrown. Who can match the Frenchman’s achievements? Nine trophies in two-and-half years. As a coach, the former France captain didn’t contest for a Champions League that he didn’t win. Managers aplenty would be happy to retire with that record. But the powers that be in Madrid are insatiable. A marquee manager should be barging through the Bernabeu door quite soon. Only the best will be considered.
Massimiliano Allegri has impressed in Italy. Florentino Perez should be well aware that it was another Italian manager who helped break a 12-year-duck and led them to La Decima. Allegri’s defensive tactics are a contrast to Carlo Ancelotti's dynamic style, yet, if Jose Mourinho could achieve considerable success at Madrid with his laid-back approach, Allegri can be trusted to do a better job. All it’ll take is a phone call from Perez.
Arsene Wenger gets a mention. French, like the departing Madrid boss, but almost twice his age, Wenger has the pedigree. He's also stated he'll only take on a short-term project post-Arsenal. There is no other kind with Los Blancos. The question is whether Real would sit well with the orthodox style you’d expect from the septuagenarian.
Mauricio Pochettino is tied for the next five years with Tottenham Hotspur. Still, that twine can be cut if Madrid shows interest. The Argentine is working on a remarkable project at Spurs that has earned more rave reviews than cynicism. Yet, he recently communicated his preparedness to leave London. Does that make him available to a club whose name alone guarantees one title per season?
The most qualified candidate has other business to conclude before he can be considered. Joachim Low is expected to step down as die Mannschaft boss after following the World Cup. If Real Madrid does hire Low, it’ll be a gamble similar to Chelsea's on Luiz Felipe Scolari. It backfired for the Blues but might pay off for the Whites.
What's next for Zidane?
Zizou has proved he can manage at the elite level. Nevertheless, it was at Real Madrid with her inexhaustible resources. Like Pep Guardiola before him, we'd all love to see Zidane coach elsewhere. He did say he was tired, so there is no rush. But when the time comes?
A buccaneering midfielder in his playing days, Zidane plundered Italy with Juventus. He could return. Inter or AC Milan would be other options. Given that he wants to rest, both Didier Deschamps and Thomas Tuchel now have additional pressure to perform for Les Bleus and Paris Saint-Germain respectively. If the German struggles, how tempted would PSG owners be to recruit a manager who has never lost the Champions League to lead a team that has yet to win?
I wouldn’t be shocked to see him come to England, either. My guess would be Chelsea. Reports have led us to believe the Blues have a laser beamed on Maurizio Sarri. If Roman Abramovic wants a trophy-laden manager, Champions League experience a winning mentality; he won’t find anyone better than Zinedine Zidane without a job.