"HE IS what a day I'm in, one day I'm 'I'm out, then I'm a little in, then we pull or we lose and I'm out again,' said Zinedine Zidane. That was early February, and almost four months later, that's one reason why it's really out. At 10.30am on Thursday morning, he went to Real Madrid manager Valdebebas. He was officially the former Real Madrid coach when he left the car two hours later. Again. He had told some players the night before when the Santiago Bernabéu was being photographed over the fire.
His statement confirming the club's departure was issued soon after. noon. Especially enthusiastic and just long words. There are no press conferences or farewell plans; The club's media chose to turn the page, reading silence after the statement. The only player Zidane could say goodbye to in person was Lucas Vázquez, who went through rehab at Valdebebas.
The explanation was short but enough, he said, with the main message given: it's his decision, not ours. He had chosen to leave; All they could do was respect that. And don't mention it again. This is the third time Zidane has walked away: as a player, twice as a manager. Every time the decision was one-sided, every time he entered a contract, and every time, he waived any salary that was still due. This money is too much. "I'm going to make this very easy for the club," he said earlier this month.
But that doesn't mean it's just about himself or that he doesn't feel challenged. door. These are not decisions made in a vacuum, the club is complicit in creating the conditions that saw him leave.
Nor are they surprised: Madrid had known for a while that this was coming. Although they didn't like the idea of someone else defining what happened next, they were prepared for it too. A search for change had begun that they were optimistic, and Max Allegri would end up signing up only to find that the Italians might have other ideas. And so, to other candidates like Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino, or so they hope. And then there's Raúl, who coaches the B team.
Zidane has been speaking publicly and privately like a man for some time now. He recently denied reports that he told the players he would be leaving before the season ended - "why should I say that now?" He objected—but certainly some had interpreted his words that way. In the media, too, the clues got heavier and the interrogation was more insistent than ever.
However, this is not new. On one level, he was there the moment he came back as coach in March 2019, completely unconvinced of anything except that he somehow had to. Even before that: When he came out at the top in May 2018, the three-time Champions League winner, it wasn't just because he made it, because hell was a time and a way to go. When he returned, he was in a position of authority, but that would never be eternal. Even not winning guarantees that.
“I've been imprisoned in a cage for two weeks and I feel like I'm fighting,” Zidane said, and found one. Tested positive for Covid-19 and isolated at home watching his team struggle. From the cup to third-tier Alcoyano, from the Super Cup against Athletic Bilbao and seemingly out of the league, they've also flown in Europe, losing twice to Shakhtar Donetsk and facing the prospect of failing to beat the group. First time.
Of course they've made progress, which tends to be the way, Zidane is trusting the old guard again and surviving another crisis. At a press conference, he demanded respect for the group. “I am angry,” he said.
He was too angry for anyone to remember, and his focus was on his demands that a generation that had given so much to the club be allowed another. A generation that will ultimately include it is the season to defend the title. And thenHe said there will be changes. This includes it. It will almost certainly include captain Sergio Ramos, who wants to get a contract extension but still hasn't signed it.
“A lot has been said about a lot of things about the changes. Coach, but we will fight to the end and we deserve respect. Tell me you want to get rid of me to my face, not behind my back,” Zidane told reporters, but they were not the only ones he said.
The club knows, it's always said and it's true – good or bad. He knows that rumors and attacks always come out of nowhere; He knew that the reports claiming that his dismissal was hours away after his defeat against Shakhtar were not fabrications. He is aware of where the whispers are coming from, that some tribunes carry certain voices from inside the club, that the criticisms are not very skillfully broadcast in public, implicitly but literally, distrust of him floats and ideas float in the air.
So, to see him, to fight to win something, to allow himself – these players, whom he has accomplished so much –
vowed to allow them to be added. Trophies won with him as coach, 24 games each. They competed together and somewhere along the line he decided it was time. It was better for him and for them. As the season closes, no titles to celebrate, no splits at the top this time, Zidane was asked if Real Madrid could thrive under a different manager. “Absolutely,” he said.