Zidane leaves Real Madrid: Conte, Pochettino, Raul and other candidates to replace Zizou

By Sports Desk May 27, 2021

Zinedine Zidane has stepped down as head coach of Real Madrid, ending weeks of mounting speculation over his future.

Zidane returned to Madrid for a second spell at the helm in March 2019, having led his former team to three consecutive Champions League successes from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

Last season, he added a LaLiga title to the one he collected in 2016-17, but Los Blancos finished 2020-21 without a trophy to their name – bowing out in the semi-finals of the Champions League and finishing second to city rivals Atletico Madrid domestically.

A significant rebuild appears to be needed at Madrid, with Zidane deciding he is not the man for that task as the club face up to a testing financial situation and the potential of a Champions League ban for their part in the doomed Super League project.

Nevertheless, the allure of Real Madrid remains considerable and plenty of big names will be in the frame.

Raul

Zidane cut his coaching teeth with Madrid's Castilla team and fellow club great Raul is now the man in that position.

Elevating Madrid's former record goalscorer to the top job would no doubt prove popular with fans but the decision to follow the Castilla-to-first-team template backfired horribly during Santiago Solari's four-and-a-half months in charge that preceded Zidane's return.

 

Antonio Conte

Former Juventus and Italy boss Conte has been on Real Madrid's radar previously and is now on the market once more having left Inter by mutual consent.

Conte led Inter to Scudetto glory this term, adding that success to league titles won at Juve and Chelsea. However, his habit of clashing with his employers would arguably not bode well for any union with Florentino Perez.

In the Champions League, Conte's record is far less impressive. But, if a ban is on the way, the 51-year-old has shown himself to be at his very best when coaching teams rigorously for one game per week. Circumstances might conspire to make the timing absolutely right if Madrid turn to the Italian.

Mauricio Pochettino

Another coach previously linked to the Madrid post in between Zidane's spells at the helm, Pochettino appeared to be the one that got away after joining Paris Saint-Germain midway through this season.

Yet, reports emerged this week that the Argentine is unsettled in the French capital and has held talks over a dramatic return to Tottenham.

If he is open to that, he would surely listen to anything Real Madrid have to say?

 

Joachim Low

Low will bring down the curtain on 15 years in charge of Germany after the forthcoming European Championship and is certainly the kind of big name to excite Los Blancos' fanbase and boardroom alike.

It is tempting to wonder how much of the shine has come off Low in the years since Germany won the 2014 World Cup, although a strong farewell showing at Euro 2020 would assuage most doubts.

Even so, returning to club management for the first time in almost two decades at the Santiago Bernabeu might be something of a culture shock.

Massimiliamo Allegri

Yes, yes, okay. He's going to Juventus, right? Has he gone there already?

The rapidly turning European managerial merry-go-round has Allegri set for a return to Turin, the with failed Andrea Pirlo experiment apparently only having hours left to run.

On the other hand, this time yesterday, Conte was still in a job and Pochettino was settled in Paris, so far as anyone knew. And Allegri is admired in Madrid. Don't rule this one out entirely, for at least the next five minutes.

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    Messi was honoured pre-game in front of the Parc des Princes crowd following his record-extending Ballon d'Or title, but the superstar was unable to fire PSG to glory in the French capital midweek.

    Entering the contest having found the net three times in as many home games for runaway Ligue 1 leaders PSG, Messi attempted six shots, though only one was on target against Nice.

    It was Messi's highest tally without scoring in the league since April 2021 – seven with Barcelona against Real Madrid in LaLiga prior to his blockbuster Paris switch.

    "It must be my fault because with my football eye I always see Leo well, for something he has won seven Ballons d'Or, there is nothing more to say," Pochettino told reporters.

    "It is a pleasure and an honour to have him on our team."

    PSG registered 22 shots on goal – their highest tally without scoring in Ligue 1 since March 2016, with Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe going closest to finding the back of the net, but were unable to break down their stubborn opponents.

    French powerhouse PSG conceded their first 0-0 home draw in Ligue 1 since February 2017 (against Toulouse). This was their first home draw in the top flight since November 2020 (2-2 against Bordeaux), ending a run of 20 games at home without sharing points (W16 L4).

    PSG, however, remain 12 points clear atop the table, though second-placed Marseille have played one game less.

    "When goals are not scored, what is lacking is to hit the mark, you shoot many times and the ball does not go in and other times it does," added Pochettino, who has been heavily linked with Premier League side Manchester United.

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