Real Madrid sack Rafa Benitez, Zinedine Zidane takes over as manager
Zidane is Real Madrid's first ever French manager
Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez has been sacked by the club after a poor run of form that saw the Blancos fall to third place in La Liga. The club’s Board of Directors held a meeting earlier today and club president Florentino Perez made the announcement that Zinedine Zidane would replace Benitez.
“The board has taken a difficult decision – especially for me – to sack Rafa Benítez,” Perez said. “He is a great professional and a magnificent person.”
Speaking of Zidane, Perez said: “I'm very proud because I know that for you [Zidane], the word 'impossible' doesn't exist. Zidane, this is your stadium. Real Madrid fans will be by your side, and you, from now on, are the new coach of Real Madrid.”
Zidane also addressed the journalists at the press conference.
“This is an important day for me,” Zidane said. “I'm more excited now than I was on the day I signed as a player.” Zidane played for Real Madrid between 2001 and 2006 before he retired.
“I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well. What I will try to do is try and do the best possible so that this team wins something at the end of the season.”
Announcement delayed because of kids party at club’s press room
La Liga pundit Guillem Balague had earlier confirmed the sacking and explained why there was a delay in the announcement. Apparently a kid’s party in the press room had to be wrapped up before they could make the announcement.
“Rafa Benitez has been sacked,” Balague told Sky Sports earlier today. “He has been told about it. Everything is prepared for the announcement.
“The only reason why it hasn't happened yet is because the area Real want to do the press conference is being used for a kids party. But it will be announced soon. It was something that was coming.”
Benitez lasted only six troubled months at Madrid
Benitez was appointed in the summer after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked following a trophyless 2014/15 season. Real Madrid started the season strongly and were undefeated at the top of the league until match week 10 before two consecutive losses to Sevilla (3-2) and Barcelona (0-4) saw them drop to third. Another loss to Villarreal (1-0) in December put more pressure on Benitez as rumours of sacked Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho returning to the Bernabeu gathered steam in the media.
Although club president Florentino Perez had earlier come out and backed the 55-year-old manager, there was always speculation that he would get the sack if results did not improve. Last night’s 2-2 draw with Valencia leaves the capital club in danger of losing ground in the title race with Barcelona also two points above them with a game in hand.
Real Madrid are still in the Champions League too after topping their group and will take on AS Roma in the Round of 16 but their chances of winning any other trophy end there as they were kicked out of the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player against Cadiz. Denis Cheryshev was supposed to serve a suspension but was still played leading to their disqualification – a second time this has happened to Benitez in the competition.
Did fallout with players lead to loss of confidence from club’s board?
Numerous reports of a fallout between Benitez and the players had also been reported over the past few months. Cristiano Ronaldo had reportedly stormed out of a meeting with Benitez over his free-kick analysis in December. But Perez had also revealed that he had spoken to the players and had assured the media that they got along with him just fine.
However, at the same time, Perez had also consulted with season ticket holders over who they wanted as a replacement. According to Balague, one of the main reasons behind not hiring Mourinho again was because a number of players at the club reportedly did not want the Portuguese boss back at the club.