New Straits Times


Manager quits just five days after sealing hat-trick of Champions League trophies


ZINEDINE Zidane has sensationa­lly quit Real Madrid after landing an historic Champions League hat-trick. The Frenchman called an unexpected press conference on Thursday afternoon to reveal that he will be leaving after twoand-a-half years in charge.

The 45-year-old revealed that he feels this is the right time to go despite being a legend as both a player and a manager.

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Chelsea's Antonio Conte are the early frontrunne­rs to take over.

Appearing alongside Real president Florentino Perez, Zidane said: “I have taken the decision to not continue going into the next season. For me and for everybody, I think the moment to change has arrived. It was not an easy decision.'

Zidane told club president Florentino Perez of his plans on Wednesday as he believes the team needs a change.

“I love this club, I love the president,” he said. “He gave me the opportunit­y to come as a player and now manager and I am eternally grateful.

“But we have to change.

“I will be close to this club for the rest of my life. I want to thank the fans, who always supported me both as a coach and a player. There were tough moments during the season and although I was sometimes whistled at, I want to thank the fans.

“This is a beautiful moment as we have just won a third straight Champions League and I have now reflected and made this decision. Even the players need this change, I must thank them too.”

Zidane went on to talk about his best achievemen­ts as Real boss and described winning the league as ‘the top’ of his list.

“The most beautiful moment was when the president brought me to play for this great club,” he said. “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 Leganes in the second leg of the Copa del Rey. I won’t use the word but you know it.”

Perez said Zidane's decision to leave was unexpected: “After winning the Champions League, the decision was unexpected,” he said. “It is a sad day for me, the fans and the players.

“But he knows I wanted him as a player and as a manager. I wanted him to stay forever and I wanted to convince him to stay. But I know it was his final decision. All I want to do is remind him that this club is his home and family.”

Perez continued: “I went to his house yesterday (Wednesday) to see if he was prepared. He told me that he was convinced he wanted to go.

“I want to thank him for his commitment and passion to Real Madrid. His behaviour has always been an example for all and representa­tive of Real. I don’t want this to be a goodbye but a "see you soon". I have no doubt he will come back soon.”

Zidane insisted the club needed a change despite their continued success in Europe: “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 message, yes. I spoke with the captains and with Sergio Ramos.”

Zidane insisted that he wouldn’t be taking on another job following his decision to quit Real: “I’m not going to coach another team right now. I’m not looking for another team.”

The quest to find a high-profile successor will now commence: Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, former Arsenal manager Wenger and the Italian Maurizio Sarri, most recently of Napoli, have all been linked with the Bernabeu hotseat.

Zidane called a surprise press conference on Thursday afternoon where he revealed he has stepped down from his role as head coach after a two-and-ahalf-year spell.

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