The ovation that greeted his ‘possibly one in a lifetime feat’ was still getting louder when Zinedine Zidane dropped another shocker. He announced that he would be quitting his job at Real Madrid as Manager of the World’s most successful team.
Less than a week ago, Zidane created a record as the first coach in history to win three consecutive Champions League titles with a single club thereby occupying his slot as one of the great coaches in history.
On Thursday, Zidane stunned fans and lovers of football when the news broke that he was quitting the Spanish giants in an announcement that seemed to have even taken the club’s president Florentino Perez by surprise.
The 45year old tactician gave a hint of his imminent departure when he said after the 3-1 defeat of Liverpool in Kiev, “I don’t see myself continuing to win this year and I am a winner, I don’t like to lose,”
Zidane’s departure from Real Madrid have the elements of his dramatic departure from football as a player. In the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin, his final appearance as a player was cut short when he was sent off for headbutting the Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Zidane said he had insulted his family.
The 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Kiev on Saturday was the pinnacle of a coaching career after his reign as a player with Real Madrid which peaked when he scored the winning goal in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow.
Zidane was considered one of the all-time greats as a player, his mixture of sublime skill wrapped up in a muscular package driving France to victory in the 1998 World Cup on home soil.
Affectionately known as “Zizou” in France, he was World Player of the Year three times, in 1998, 2000 and 2003 in a career that started at Cannes, moved onto Bordeaux before he moved into the big league with Juventus, staying five years, before joining Real in 2001.
Incredibly, his record-breaking achievement in Kiev came less than three full seasons in charge after he was promoted from his position as coach of Real’s youth team.
He was promoted manager of the senior team only in January 2016 replacing Rafael Benitez in the Santiago Bernabeu dugout and in less than three years, he had won nine trophies.
Madrid sports daily AS described Zidane was “the architect of this glorious and possibly unrepeatable era” after the final in Kiev.
France manager, Didier Deschamps said of him “You can’t help but admire what he has done. As a player, he was an extraordinary player. He’s had a second life as a coach and he is already an extraordinary coach. Achieving three Champions League wins is fabulous.”
Reactions to the celebrated coach’s sudden resignation poured in from the club, players and fans. A distraught Real Madrid’s President, Florentino Perez said “I wasn’t prepared for this news. I want to thank Zizou for his dedication to the job, his passion and his affection. He’s an example for everyone, I hope that this doesn’t serve as a farewell, I want him to return someday.
“After winning the Champions League, I wasn’t expecting this. Zidane knows I loved him more than any other player or manager and I’ve always wanted him by his side.
It was a completely unexpected decision for me. It’s a sad day for me and for the supporters, but when Zizou makes a decision, then we have to respect it because he deserves it,”
The club’s captain, Sergio Ramos wrote on his twitter handle; “Coach, as a player and now as our coach you decided to leave while you were on top. Thanks for these two years of football, work, love and friendship. You’re leaving but your legacy is there to stay. One of the most successful chapters in the history of our dear Real Madrid”.
Star player Cristiano Ronaldo emotional:
“I just feel proud to have been your player. Mister, thank you for so much,”
“Gracias Mister! It’s been a pleasure!”
“Coach, with you we learned, we grew up and we achieved what appeared to be impossible. You leave on top. Thank you on behalf of every Real Madrid fan”.
“Zidane, working with you has been a great privilege. Learning every day and then winning altogether because you managed to make this a historic team. I wish you all the best”.
“I can’t find the right words to thank you for what you did for this dressing room, for Real Madrid and for the whole madridismo. It’s been an honour and a privilege having my idol coaching me. Zizou forever.”