MADRID • Just five days after leading Real Madrid to an unprecedented third straight Champions League title, Zinedine Zidane shocked the football world by resigning as manager, saying that the club need a "different voice".
"I think it's the moment, both for me, the team and the club (to step down). It's a strange moment to do so, I know, but an important one too. I had to do this for everyone," the 45-year-old said yesterday.
"After three years it needs another voice, another method of work, for this I took this decision. The players need a change.
"This club's history is huge, we always ask a lot of players, but there comes a moment when you think, 'What more can I ask of them, after what they've done for me?'."
Zidane won nine major honours after replacing Rafael Benitez in January 2016. And his crowning glory came last Saturday when he became the first coach to win a third straight European Cup when Real beat Liverpool 3-1, capping a remarkable period in his first job in senior-club management.
"I don't see myself continuing to win this year and I am a winner, I don't like to lose," said Zidane, who admitted he had previously planned to sign an extension to his deal that was supposed to run till 2020. "You saw in the (Spanish King's Cup) this season and I can't forget our domestic campaign that easily."
A FRESH APPROACH NEEDED
This club's history is huge, we always ask a lot of players, but there comes a moment when you think, 'What more can I ask of them, after what they've done for me?'.
ZINEDINE ZIDANE, on how it is the right moment both for him and the club to have a change.
Real finished only third in the Spanish LaLiga, 17 points behind champions Barcelona and lost in the domestic Cup's quarter-finals to Leganes.
Zidane said his decision had nothing to do with Cristiano Ronaldo hinting following the Champions League triumph on Saturday that he will leave the club.
The Portugal forward told beIN Sports Spain he would reveal his plans for the future "in the next few days". Real's all-time leading scorer with 450 goals also spoke about his time at the Bernabeu in the past tense, saying: "It was beautiful to be at Real Madrid."
Gareth Bale also cast doubt on his future despite scoring two goals as a substitute that day. Zidane's departure, however, is likely to see the Welshman remain at the club.
The former Tottenham star, who has been linked with a return to the English Premier League with Manchester United, was unhappy with his playing time last season. But Real reportedly want him to stay and that is also his preference if he is a regular starter.
Spanish football expert Guillem Balague told Sky Sports that the comments by Ronaldo and Bale played a part in Zidane's decision.
"All in all, he felt that the distance between players and manager, the authority of the manager, had been hurt. That is why he had to leave," the Sky Sports pundit said.
Real have not named a successor but local media reports suggest Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino is their first choice.
But Balague, the author of Pochettino's biography Brave New World, said the Argentinian is unlikely to leave Spurs after signing a new five-year contract with the club.
Instead, Balague threw up Arsene Wenger, who ended a 22-year association with Arsenal last season, as a potential candidate.
"We know that (Real president) Florentino Perez has tried to get Arsene Wenger, in the words of Wenger, two or three times," Balague added. "Wenger has said no before, but now he is out of a job.
"The interest in Pochettino from Real Madrid is obvious for all to see. He is the type of manager they would like to have at Real Madrid at some point."
Perez was next to Zidane at the press conference yesterday and said the announcement was "totally unexpected".
"This is a sad day," Perez said. "This house will be his family forever, he triumphed and won everything, as you know."
Former Real president Ramon Calderon believes Zidane's achievements are unlikely to be repeated.
He told Sky Sports: "It's really a shock. He's leaving when he cannot do any better. Winning three Champions Leagues in a row is going to be very difficult in the future for any coach of any team."
Real captain Sergio Ramos was quick to pay tribute to his manager, tweeting: "Boss, as a player and now as a coach, you went out at the top. Thanks for two and a half years of football, hard work, warmth and friendship. You're leaving but your legacy will forever remain. It's one of the most successful periods in the history of our beloved Real Madrid."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN