MADRID (AFP) - Beleaguered Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez could be sacked by the Spanish giants as early as Monday evening after just seven months in charge, several Spanish media outlets reported.
Sports daily Marca reported Benitez's sacking will be made official in the coming hours with French legend and the club's reserve team coach Zinedine Zidane to take over.
Madrid twice threw away the lead in drawing 2-2 away to Valencia on Sunday to leave Benitez's men four points adrift of local rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.
They also trail eternal rivals Barcelona by two points having played a game more.
The appointment of the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager in June wasn't a popular one with either fans or the club's star players, who had voiced their desire for his sacked predecessor Carlo Ancelotti to stay.
A run of three league defeats in five games in November and December, including a 4-0 thrashing at home to Barcelona, wiped away the early credit Benitez had gained with an unbeaten 14-game run to start his reign.
Further embarrassment was to follow when Madrid were thrown out of the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player last month.
Benitez's relationship with the dressing room has also failed to improve with key players such as Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez often showing their disgust at being substituted.
And captain Sergio Ramos failed to offer a strong sign of support for Benitez when given the chance after the Valencia game.
"His future doesn't depend on us," said the Spanish international. "Whoever the coach is he will always have the confidence of the players. Whether it is Rafa or anyone else."