Just five days after Real Madrid won its third straight Champions League title, its head coach Zinedine Zidane surprisingly stepped down on Thursday.
Zidane announced his decision in Madrid after calling a news conference on Thursday morning.
Zinedine took over as the head coach of Real Madrid in January 2016 after the dismissal of Rafa Benítez. In the same year, he guided the team to the Champions League title by beating Atlético Madrid on penalties in the final.
The Frenchman Zidane won the Spanish league title in his second season, then became the first manager to win the Champions League in his first three seasons in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Speaking to the media in Madrid, president of Real Florentino Perez said: “Thanks for coming to everyone. Zinedine Zidane will be speaking shortly but he communicated to me yesterday the unexpected decision that he will leave as coach.”
Zidane said, “I spoke to him to explain a little what I was thinking at the moment. First for me, the squad, the club I think it’s a bit of a weird moment but an important one that is good for everyone.”
He added: “What I think is that this team needs to continue winning but I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology and that’s why I took this decision.
“I love this club and the president who gave me the chance to play for this club and manage the club of my dreams.
“But everything changes and that’s why I’ve taken the decision to leave.”
Perez said: “This was a totally unexpected decision and today is a sad day for me and for everyone who works for this club.
“When he says he’s taken a decision though, we have to accept it.
“I tried to convince him but I know how it is. He knows he has all our love and support.
“One can’t be prepared for something like this. I remember the first time I went to his house and asked him to coach Real Madrid and he was absolutely convinced he could win things.
“We must thank him for his care and passion for Real Madrid over these years.
“The only thing I want to say is ‘hasta pronto’ because I know he will return, maybe after a rest.”
Zidane said: “Like I told the president it could be a ‘see you soon’ because Madrid has given me everything. I will still be close to the club but this decision is a clear one that might not make sense to some people but it is the moment to make a change, for the players as well.
“After doing three years, it’s the right decision. I understand, and what I can do is thank the fans not only as a coach but as a player they have always supported me.
“I have a special love for this fanbase. I thank you all for your support and there are difficult times when there are whistles but that is part of this club. I think at times the players need it, when you have a difficult time you have to front up occasionally. When the fans spur us on, that’s important.”
“There are really beautiful moments, ending in a spectacular moment winning the third Champions League, but there are hard moments too. I think it’s the right time. I think the players need a change but I should thank them because at the end of the day it’s them that fight out there and this is a club of very high expectations.
“We always want more and more, I couldn’t ask for more from these players but now is the time for them to have a different voice in the changing room.”
“The squad already knows. I’ve not talked to them all individually but they all know, by the message, yes. I spoke with the captains and with Sergio Ramos.”
“I’m not thinking about anything. After three years it’s my decision, it could be wrong, but after three years I think it’s the moment.
“If I can’t see clearly how we’re going to continue winning, or how I want them, then it’s the best time to change. To not continue.”
Asked how Madrid skipper Ramos took it and his future plans, Zidane says:
“I’m not going to coach another team right now. I’m not looking for another team.
“I’ve sent a message to all the squad and I’ve spoken to Sergio Ramos. As always as a person and captain, we have lived a lot together, he respects my decision. He wished me luck. He is a leader, a captain and it has been a pleasure to share three more years with him.”
When Zidane was asked about his best/worst memories, he said:
“The best memory was being able to play for this club. It is the dream of many players to play even one day for Real Madrid. The most beautiful moment was when the president brought me to play for this great club.
“If there’s one as a coach, it was winning La Liga. For me that was the top. This year the worst was losing the game against Leganés in the second leg of the Copa del Rey. I won’t use the word but you know it.”
“It’s not a beautiful day because it’s a complicated thing. I say that I’m not staying but it’s not a sad day for me, it’s a ‘hasta pronto’ a ‘see you soon’ not a goodbye.
“This relationship isn’t going to change, not for anything.”
“The job of coach has difficult parts! I have shared the transfers and telling players bad news with the president,” Zidane said when about being tired out by the job, adding, “It’s a decision for the good of everyone. For me first, but for the squad too. The change is necessary to keep winning, I believe. There’s nothing more than that.”
“The players have nothing to do with my decision.
“It’s difficult to keep going with things the same, winning three Champions Leagues. I am a winner, I like winning and hate losing. If I have the feeling that I’m not going to win, I’m going to make a change.
“If I don’t feel good because I’m not winning, I’ll walk out. That’s why I took this decision.”
“When I took the decision that was it. There was no backward step. Nothing is going to change in my relationship with the president, I know what he thinks and that is that.”