Zinedine Zidane has walked away from Real Madrid, only five days after winning a third consecutive Champions League. The Frenchman announced his decision at the Valdebebas training ground on Thursday afternoon, insisting he and the club needed a change and admitting he was not convinced Real would continue winning if he remained in charge.
The club’s president, Florentino Pérez, described it as a “sad day” and said the decision was “totally unexpected”. Zidane would not say exactly when he made the decision to depart.
Pérez said Zidane had communicated his decision on Wednesday and a press conference was hurriedly called on Thursday morning. At the same time the players were informed of the decision by text message. Zidane said he had spoken to the Real captain, Sergio Ramos, and he would speak to the other club captains, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo, in due course. He said he had no plans to manage another club but was not tired of coaching. Real did not say anything about a successor but Mauricio Pochettino is among those they have long identified as candidates.
Zidane had been due to discuss plans for the coming season – plans that would include the futures of Gareth Bale and Ronaldo, both of whom had suggested they would leave immediately after the Champions League final. Instead, it is the manager who walks away.
“I would have liked to convince him [to stay] but I know how he is,” Pérez said at the start of the press conference.
“I have taken the decision not continue as coach of Real Madrid next year,” Zidane said. “I spoke to the president to explain what I thought. I think it is the moment, for me and for the squad. I know it is a bit of a strange moment but I think it is the right moment. This is a team that should keep on winning and it needs a change for that. After three years, it needs another discourse, another working methodology, and that’s why I took this decision.”
“There are complicated moments in the season when you ask: ‘Am I still the right person? I don’t forget the hard moments too. There are lovely moments and we ended with a spectacular moment but there are hard moments that make you reflect.” He identified Real’s defeat in the Copa del Rey as one of the key moments.
“I think it’s the moment to go,” he added. “I also think the players need a change. They’re the ones who fight on the pitch. It’s not easy for them. It’s a demanding club, a club with a huge history and the players are always squeezed. We always want more and more and there is a moment when you think: ‘Well, what more can I ask from my players?’ I want to win and if I don’t see clearly that we’re going to keep on winning, then it is best to change and not do anything stupid.”
Zidane leaves having won nine titles, including three consecutive European Cups, although he said the title that gave him the greatest satisfaction was last season’s league win. Asked if he might have stayed on had Real not won the Champions League final against Liverpool, he replied: “I don’t know. Could be, could be.”
Mister Zizou. He aprendido muchísimo a tu lado!
He disfrutado como un niño a cada entrenamiento, a cada consejo!
Eres muy especial para mi!
Has hecho historia con tu trabajo, tu dedicación, pasión y sobretodo con tu humildad!
Gracias Mister #marchelin 😭 pic.twitter.com/MvWCwjYSqR
— Marcelotwelve (@MarceloM12) May 31, 2018
No tengo palabras para agradecerte todo lo que has hecho por este vestuario, por el Real Madrid y por el madridismo. Ha sido un orgullo y un privilegio tener como entrenador a mi ídolo. Eterno Zizou. pic.twitter.com/wjK45SMQz7
— Casemiro (@Casemiro) May 31, 2018
Míster, como jugador y ahora como entrenador, decidiste despedirte en lo más alto. Gracias por dos años y medio de fútbol, trabajo, cariño y amistad. Te vas pero tu legado ya es imborrable. Uno de los capítulos mas exitosos de la historia de nuestro querido @realmadrid pic.twitter.com/LtyEE5g71k
— Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) May 31, 2018
Gracias Mister! It’s been a pleasure!🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/99VzaBxUoV
— Toni Kroos (@ToniKroos) May 31, 2018