Rafa Benitez has been sacked after just six months as Real Madrid manager, with the club appointing Zinedine Zidane as his replacement.
One of Benitez’s old Premier League foes Gary Neville helped seal the Spaniard’s fate when his Valencia side took a point from Real Madrid at the Mestalla on Sunday.
Directors of the Spanish club were in consultation throughout the day and after a board meeting the Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, confirmed the dismissal. The appointment of Zidane represented a snub for Jose Mourinho, who was understood to be interested in taking the job after he was sacked by Chelsea in December. Perez remains a huge fan of Mourinho, but the president sees Zidane as the man who will unite Real Madrid’s squabbling players and supporters.
For Benitez it proved to be the impossible job. He was brought in with the remit of shaking up a team that had lost their intensity since being crowned Fifa World Club champions in December 2014. However, he upset senior Real Madrid players in the process and when they stopped playing for him the results suffered. Benitez was unable to win any of the side’s crucial away games against Villarreal, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Valencia in La Liga and Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, while Barcelona won the first clasico of the season 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
After that disastrous home defeat Perez said Benitez remained the “solution” but the problems kept mounting and, with the attacking midfielder Isco threatening to leave the club and join Manchester City in this month’s transfer window, Perez had the excuse to dismiss yet another coach.