Real Madrid confirm Zidane returns as coach

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MADRID, March 12 – Real Madrid on Monday confirmed Zinedine Zidane as their third first team coach of the season, just over nine months after he resigned from the club saying it “needed a change.”

The shock news of Zidane’s return as the replacement for Santiago Solari, who loses his job after slightly more than three months in charge, was confirmed on the Real Madrid official website.

“The Real Madrid Board of Directors has decided to resolve the contract which linked Santiago Solari to the club as first team coach and at the same time Real Madrid have offered him the chance to remain part of the club.”

“The Board of Directors has also agreed to name Zinedine Zidane as new Real Madrid coach with his immediate incorporation for the rest of this season and the following three seasons, until June 30, 2022,” read the statement. Zidane’s return comes after he stepped down from the Real Madrid job on May 31 last year, saying “I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology.”

The Frenchman began his first spell in charge when he replaced Rafael Benitez as Real Madrid coach in December 2015. His two and a half years in charge saw him lead the club to three consecutive Champions League titles and the 2017 Liga Santander title, although last season Madrid finished 17 points behind FC Barelona in the Liga Santander and were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Leganes.

Many believed then that Zidane resigned because he believed the team needed a major overhaul, with Cristiano Ronaldo looking to leave, while other key players such as Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo were growing old, Tony Kroos getting stale and Gareth Bale constantly struggling with injuries.

Solari was promoted from the Real Madrid B-team at the start of November when Zidane’s replacement, former Spain coach Julen Lopetegui, was sacked following a 5-1 defeat to FC Barcelona in the 10th round of matches in the Liga Santander. Solari’s arrival sparked a reaction from some players and he can be credited with showing faith in youngsters such as Marcos Llorente, Sergio Reguilon and especially Vinicius Jr, who has been Madrid’s best player in recent weeks. However, Solari also had problems with some players, such as left back Marcelo and Spain international Isco, who he left out of last week’s defeat and Sunday’s win in Valladolid.

Solari took Madrid to third in the Liga Santander and into the semifinals of the Copa del Rey, but following a 3-1 win away to Atletico Madrid on February 8, things fell apart for his side. Real Madrid suffered from a 2-1 defeat to Girona followed by a 3-0 loss to Barca, which knocked them out of the Copa del Rey, and a 1-0 defeat to Barca which saw them drop 12 points off the pace in the league.

Finally last Tuesday’s 4-1 humiliation to Ajax ended their interest in the Champions League and effectively sealed Solari’s fate as coach.  (Xinhua)