Zinedine Zidane returns to Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane was appointed coach of Real Madrid on Monday night nine months after leaving the job. The 46-year-old Frenchman replaced Santiago Solari who was sacked following a disastrous sequence in which they were outwitted in three games at the Santiago Bernabeu.
First they lost to Barcelona 3-1 to go out of of the Copa del Rey. The same opponents beat them 1-0 in La Liga to effectively destroy their title hopes and Ajax pulverized them 4-1 to eliminate them from the Champions League, a competition Madrid had won three years on the trot.
"Real Madrid's board has decided to terminate Santiago Solari's contract as coach of the first team," said a club statement.
"Real Madrid appreciates the work done by Santiago Solari and the commitment and loyalty he has always shown to this club.
Zidane, who was given a contract until June 2022, said he had no doubts about returning to a club that he had led to the unprecdented hat trick of Champions League trophies before his surprise departure last summer.
Madrid appointed Julen Lopetegui to replace him. But the former Spain manager only lasted until October and was dismissed shortly after a 5-1 drubbing against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Solari, who had been the coach of Madrid's 'B' team, took over and in December steered the side to its third consecutive Club World Cup and a fighting chance in La Liga.
"When the president called me the first thing I thought was: go," Zidane said.
"I left because a change was needed at the end of last season, for the good of everyone, after winning so much," Zidane said. "I returned because the president called me. I love him and I love this club, so here I am."
Zidane inherits a squad that has evolved while he has been away. Cristiano Ronaldo has moved to Juventus and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been recruited from Chelsea.
Vinicius Junior and Sergio Reguilon have been given prominence in the first team while Gareth Bale has struggled to impose his talent.
Zidane's first task will be to ensure that Madrid qualify for next season's Champions League.
With 11 La Liga games remaining and the top four advancing to the Champions League, Madrid are third, 12 points behind the pacesetters Barcelona. But they are 10 points ahead of fifth placed Deportivo Alaves.
"I do not want to forget what we won but I also do not forget all the things we did badly last year," Zidane said.
"We will change things, for sure, for the years to come. But now is not about that - the important thing is I am back.
"I do not blame anybody," Zidane added. "Lopetegui and Solari wanted to do the best for the club. It went how it went. The only thing now is to look forward."
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