Zinedine Zidane turned some heads when he announced a surprise conference on Thursday, and the news was sensational.
The Frenchman has called time on his job as Real Madrid manager, leaving the club after two and a half years in charge.
The Real Madrid manager made the surprise announcement in front of a hastily assembled press pack, just five days after winning his third consecutive Champions League.
He was promoted from assistant manager after Rafael Benitez was relieved of his duties, and since then has gone from strength to strength, particularly in Europe. Along with Champions League, he won La Liga in 2016/17, and the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup twice.
“I have taken the decision not to continue at Real Madrid next season,” Zidane said, flanked by Florentino Perez. “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.”
“I love this club a lot, and also the president, who gave me the opportunity to come here to play and to manage, but I think this is the best for me and for everyone.
“I can only thank the fans, not as a manager but also as a player. They supported me even when I played badly. I can only give them my thanks for all the support. We have lived through some complicated moments when they whistled, but sometimes the players need that.
“This history of this club is huge. I’ve always tried to impress that upon the players and asked more of them, but how can I keep doing that? It’s the time for change.
“This is my decision. 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.”
“I’m not going to coach another team now. I’m not looking for another team,” he added. “I’m going but I will continue being close to this club. Nothing changes with regard to the respect I hold for Real Madrid.”
He also pointed to some low points during the season, saying they had given him opportunity to reflect, as reasons for why he has decided to leave now.
“The worst moment was being knocked out by Leganes. I’m not even gonna say the word of how I felt,” he finished.
It adds to a heightened sense of uncertainty at Real Madrid, with the futures of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale already in serious doubt. Zidane’s successor will have some job on his hands.
This was recognized by Perez, who said he was shocked when Zidane told him the news.
“As you can imagine, after winning the Champions League, to hear this decision is completely unexpected,” Perez said to the press pack. “It’s a sad day for me and it also will be for the fans and players of this club. I wanted him as a player and a manager and I wanted him to be next to me forever, but I also know that, when he takes a decision, it’s a final decision.
“It was a huge impact for me yesterday when I heard this decision. I would have liked to convince him to stay on but I know what he’s like. All I can offer is my love and respect and remind him that this is his home.”
Perez remains hopeful that Zidane will return to the club in future, having won nine major trophies since taking over in January 2016.
“Nobody can be prepared for news like this,” he said. “When I heard, I went to his house to see if he was prepared and he told me completely seriously that he was convinced. I want to thank him for his commitment, his passion, his love, everything he has done for Real Madrid. His behavior has always been an example for all and he has represented Real Madrid very well.
“I don’t want this to be a goodbye, just a ‘see you soon’. I’ve no doubt he will come back but, if he needs to rest, he deserves that.”
Zidane, finished with one final line. When asked as a final question if maybe winning a third Champions League had contributed to this decision, he simply smiled and said: “Maybe, yes.”
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