Zidane makes shock decision to quit Real Madrid days after Champions League win

Zinedine Zidane has surprised the footballing world by announcing he will leave Real Madrid this summer.

The Frenchman, 45, is walking away just days after guiding the Spanish giants to an unprecedented third Champions League victory in a row.

Los Blancos defeated Atletico Madrid on penalties to win the Champions League in his first season in charge before beating Juventus last year and Liverpool on Saturday.

Zidane, who was under contract until 2020 in Madrid, offered little suggestion he would quit after the 3-1 victory in Kiev but he has decided the time is right to leave the Bernabeu, and does so on a high.

Appearing at a press conference alongside Real president Florentino Perez, World Cup winner Zidane said: "I have taken the decision to not continue going into the next season.

"For me and for everybody, I think the moment to change has arrived. It was not an easy decision.

"I think it’s the moment, both for me, the team and the club [to step down].

"It’s a strange moment to do so, I know, but an important one too. I had to do this for everyone.

"This side should carry on winning and needs a change for this.

"After three years it needs another voice, another method of work, for this I took this decision."

Zidane added: "I will be close to this club for the rest of my life. I want to thank the fans, who always supported me both as a coach and a player.

"There were tough moments during the season and although I was sometimes whistled at, I want to thank the fans.

"This is a beautiful moment as we have just won a third straight Champions League and I have now reflected and made this decision. Even the players need this change, I must thank them too.

"I love this club, I love the president.

"He gave me the opportunity to come as a player and now manager and I am eternally grateful. But we have to change."

Zidane revealed that he wasn’t able to tell all the squad personally, but made sure to seek out Sergio Ramos having "lived a lot together" over his time in charge.

"The squad already knows," he continued. "I’ve not talked to them all individually but they all know.

"I’ve sent a message to all the squad and I’ve spoken to Sergio Ramos.

"As always as a person and captain, we have lived a lot together, he respects my decision. He wished me luck.

"He is a leader, a captain and it has been a pleasure to share three more years with him."

Real president Perez, who also addressed the world’s media in the press conference, said: "This was a totally unexpected decision, Zidane informed me of his choice yesterday. I thank him for the work he has done."

The quest to find a high-profile successor will now commence: Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and the Italian Maurizio Sarri, most recently of Napoli, have all been linked with the Bernabeu hotseat.

The Real Madrid players have been taking to Twitter to pay tribute to Zidane, after the news was officially announced to the world.

Cristiano Ronaldo said: "I’m just proud to have been your player. Mister, thanks for so much."

Madrid captain Ramos wrote: "As a player and coach you decided to say goodbye at the top. Thank you for two and a half incredible years.

"Your legacy will never be erased, one of the most successful chapters in the history of our beloved Real Madrid."

Toni Kroos said: "Gracias Mister! It’s been a pleasure!" while Isco added: "Zidane, it’s been an honour to work with you."

Real Madrid full-back Dani Carvajal also posted on Twitter, writing: "Just to thank you for these two and a half years as our coach, you have been an incredible professional as well as all your staff.

"I have learned a lot as a player and person at your command, I wish you the best and again Zidane, it has been an honor to work with you."

Zidane took over as head coach at Real in January 2016 as Rafa Benitez’s replacement after working with the club’s Castilla side, also known as Real Madrid B.

Real Madrid finished runners-up to Barcelona at the end of Zidane’s first league campaign in charge, but he guided his side to European glory.

Los Blancos saw off city rivals Atletico Madrid in a penalty shootout in Milan, after the match finished 1-1 following 90 minutes and extra time.

Zidane won his first La Liga title the following year and delivered a second Champions League trophy in Cardiff, after Los Blancos beat Juventus 4-1.

In doing so the Frenchman became the first manager of the modern era to win consecutive European crowns.

Real Madrid struggled in La Liga this season, compared to their usual high standards, as Barcelona ran away with the title.

Ernesto Valverde’s Catalan giants tied up the league in a 3-0 El Clasico win at the Bernabeu in December, heaping pressure on Zidane.

But the Los Blancos boss bounced back in typical fashion in the Champions League, guiding his side past big spenders Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16.

Real Madrid saw off last season’s finalists Juventus in the quarters, beating the Italian giants 4-3 on aggregate.

Up next was German champions Bayern Munich in the semis, who Real Madrid beat 2-1 in the first leg before drawing 2-2 with in the second.

Madrid met Jurgen Klopp’s swashbuckling Liverpool in the final in Kiev, and were more than a match for this campaign’s surprise package.

Karim Benzema opened the scoring for Los Blancos, following a Loris Karius mistake, before Sadio Mane equalised for the Reds.

Gareth Bale restored Real’s lead with a stunning bicycle kick, before the Welshman put the icing on the cake with a speculative long-range effort that Karius palmed into his own net.

It remains to be seen whether Zidane will opt to take a break from the game or pursue a fresh challenge immediately.

There are limited top-level vacancies available in European club football at present, but the fallout from this summer’s World Cup in Russia might present a first international challenge to the Marseille-born coach.

Will Wenger take over from Zidane at Real Madrid?


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