Real Madrid sacked Rafa Benitez after just seven months in charge of Los Blancos and replaced him with club legend, Zinedine Zidane. Prior to his appointment as first team head coach, Zidane was the coach of Real Madrid Castilla, the club’s B team, since 2014.
Real Madrid Castilla plays in the third-tier of Spanish football where it missed out on promotion in Zidane’s first campaign in charge. The team is currently second in the division.
Benitez’s dismissal was not surprising to many pundits, Real Madrid fans, and football analysts. Actually, his appointment as the team’s head coach was coupled with widespread dissatisfaction among fans. As a result, he faced an uphill struggle since his first day in office to win over the club’s fans, especially with his different style of football.
Benitez’s style is not similar to the fast, attacking play that has been part of the club’s tradition over the years and preferred by fans. In the past few months, Benitez has faced increased criticisms, especially from Real Madrid fans, given the seemingly dismal performance and results.
In his last few games, he was jeered at his own stadium and by his own fans.
The club’s president, Florentino Perez, was also under extreme pressure to sack Rafa Benitez because of the increased dissatisfaction from fans. While he was considered the ‘solution’ following the dismissal of Carlo Ancelotti several months ago, Benitez quickly escalated to become an intolerable problem at Real Madrid.
Zidane was preferred to replace Benitez despite having no experience in first team coaching. His appointment was not mainly because of his status as a club legend but based on the fact that he had become the fans’ favorite for the job in the past few months.
In appointing Zidane, Florentino Perez desires to emulate Pep Guardiola’s success at Barcelona, Los Blancos’ bitter rivals. During his time at Barcelona, Guardiola rose from player to youth coach to head coach and has become one of the best managers in the world of football (just look at the number of clubs yearning for his signature).
For Real Madrid’s faithful, Zidane’s appointment is a breath of fresh air as they hope he becomes a major success at the club just like Guardiola at Barcelona.
While Zidane has quickly dismissed these comparisons, nearly everyone at Real Madrid hope he will at least match or even better Guardiola’s success.