Just seven months into his three-year contract, Rafael Benitez has been sacked by Real Madrid who have handed his job to Zinedine Zidane.
Benitez was appointed as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor in June last year, but he has struggled to make the impact demanded by the Spanish giants. Although Los Blancos eased into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League after winning five of their six Group A matches, he received criticism for fielding an ineligible player which resulted in disqualification from the Copa del Rey.
In La Liga, Real are in third place and four points behind leaders and city rivals Atletico, and they could fall a further point behind if Barcelona win their game in hand. Following the 2-2 draw at Gary Neville’s Valencia on Sunday night, a match in which the visitors led twice, the Bernabeu board called an emergency meeting and the dismissal of Benitez was confirmed on Monday.
Many believe the writing has been on the wall for the 55-year-old for some time, possibly since the 4-0 hammering by Barca in the November Clasico. The former Tenerife, Valencia, Liverpool, Internazionale and Napoli boss has also received criticism for his style of play, and last week he accused the media of a campaign against himself, the club and its president Florentino Perez.
Real have now handed the reigns to Zidane, who has been coaching the club’s B team since 2014. The former France international became the most expensive player in the world when he joined the club in 2001 for a fee of £46million, and he went on to win the league title and the Champions League during a five-year spell during which he was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2003.
The 43-year-old, who also played for Cannes, Bordeaux and Juventus during his playing career, said: “I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well.”