Zidane leaves Real Madrid: Coach steps down for a second time

By Sports Desk May 27, 2021

Zinedine Zidane's second spell as head coach of Real Madrid is over after the club announced the departure of the Frenchman.

The former 'galactico', a majestic playmaker who dazzled crowds at the Santiago Bernabeu and beyond, Zidane returned to Madrid for two spells as coach.

Now his era is over, with Madrid stating on Thursday: "Real Madrid announces that Zinedine Zidane has decided to end his current spell as coach of our club.

"It is now time to respect his decision and show him our appreciation for his professionalism, dedication and passion in all these years, and for what he represents to Real Madrid.

"Zidane is one of Real Madrid's great icons and his legacy extends beyond what he has achieved as a coach and player at our club.

"He is aware that he has a place in the hearts of the Real Madrid fans and that he will always have a home at Real Madrid."

In his first spell, from January 2016 to May 2018, Zidane delivered an astonishing three successive Champions League triumphs and one LaLiga title.

Drawn back to the club in March 2019, his second tenure did not prove quite as successful, although he led Madrid to LaLiga success in the 2019-20 season.

He departs after a barren campaign on the trophy front, however, with Madrid losing early to minnows Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, edged out by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals, and pipped to the Spanish title by Atletico Madrid.

Zidane, 48, had been tipped to depart for weeks, with the confirmation of his exit coming as no surprise to most, although Madrid striker Karim Benzema told L'Equipe this week: "I don't see him leaving. He will not leave, you will see."

Now Madrid must find a worthy successor. Their former striker Raul has been linked with the post but is inexperienced, and Massimiliano Allegri emerged as an early favourite as whispers of Zidane's decision emerged.

However Allegri, who won a Serie A title with Milan in 2011 and added five more with Juventus, is reportedly returning to the Turin giants as a replacement for Andrea Pirlo.

Antonio Conte, who left Inter on Wednesday, may be in the Madrid frame, while Joachim Low, who will step down as Germany coach after Euro 2020, could also be a contender.

Whoever takes the job will inherit a side who finished 2020-21 in fine form.

Madrid ended their LaLiga campaign on an 18-game unbeaten run, winning 13 and drawing five in that sequence to apply pressure on one-time runaway leaders Atletico, taking the title battle to the final day.

That goes down as their best run without defeat in a single league season since Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid also strung together 18 unbeaten games in the 2013-14 campaign, winning 15 times.

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    Borussia Dortmund are bracing for Erling Haaland's departure by plotting a move for Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, claims 90Min.

    Haaland, who has a release clause in his contract that activates in mid-2022, is being chased by a host of top clubs, including Premier League champions Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Liverpool and United.

    Martial is still contracted to the Red Devils until 2024, having penned a five-year deal in January 2019, amid reported interest from Barca, Tottenham and Arsenal.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - The Transfer Window podcast claims City owner Sheikh Mansour wants to hijack Madrid's bid for PSG star Kylian Mbappe and sign him "at any cost". Mbappe has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

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  • Vini, vidi, vici? Vinicius Junior emerging at last as Real Madrid's next superstar Vini, vidi, vici? Vinicius Junior emerging at last as Real Madrid's next superstar

    "I am not a magician," said Carlo Ancelotti. "Just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities."

    The Real Madrid boss was talking about arguably the standout player from Los Blancos' strong start to the season – and, brilliant as he continues to be, it's not Karim Benzema.

    When Ancelotti spoke before Madrid's 2-1 win at Valencia, Vinicius Junior was on a run of four goals in as many games in LaLiga. That tally reached five in five after he fired in a late equaliser at Mestalla – as many goals as he had scored in 59 previous league matches.

    For attacking players, nothing builds belief like the support of a coach and regularly sticking the ball in the net. Vinicius has both of those things going for him right now, and it's yielding the best form of his Madrid career.

    NEW-MAR

    Signed amid much fanfare from Flamengo three years ago, it has taken Vinicius time to fully find his feet in the Spanish capital. Patience is notoriously thin on the ground where Madrid are concerned, but fans have been more willing than usual to play the long game with the Brazil international, who has already played 88 times in Spain's top flight, a tally bettered by just six compatriots in the club's history.

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    Along with five goals, Vinicius has provided two assists and created 10 chances this term, all of them from open play. Only Eden Hazard (12) and Karim Benzema (14) have created more among Madrid's squad. Indeed, among players aged 21 and under, only Erling Haaland (seven goals, three assists) has been directly involved in more goals in 2021-22 in Europe's top five leagues.

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    In the first six games of 2021-22, Vinicius' 17 shots have come amid a 2.64 expected goals (xG) total, but they account for 4.36 expected goals on target (xGOT), giving some indication as to the high quality of his attempts. (The xG metric assesses the quality of chances, and xGOT looks at the player's actual effort at goal.)

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    KYLIAN (IN THE NAME OF)

    A strong indicator of Vinicius' form, his willingness to stand up in matches and why those Neymar comparisons are a little closer to the mark than they once were, is the upturn in his impact when running with the ball.

    After six games in LaLiga last term, he had completed only five of 17 attempted take-ons. That success rate of 29.4 per cent was the lowest of any Madrid player to complete at least one dribble.

    This season, that success rate has jumped to 47.6 per cent, Vinicius having completed 20 of 42 attempted take-ons. These are identical figures to one Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain – another Madrid transfer target.

    Not only that, but 42 attempted take-ons is the most by any player in LaLiga in 2021-22, while Vinicius also ranks highest for take-ons in the box (eight) and those ending with a shot (four), and joint-highest for drives into the penalty area (also four).

    HEARTBEAT

    Vinicius is also averaging 62 touches of the ball per 90 minutes, an increase from 57 at this stage of the season in 2020-21. It follows that he is more heavily involved in the action at the top end of the pitch: he has had 36 involvements in shot-ending sequences in LaLiga, a figure bettered only by Real Betis' Nabil Fekir (38) and Madrid's own Benzema (51). On average, his tally has jumped from just over three per game in 2020-21 to more than seven in 2021-22. And, of those sequences this season, 10 have ended in a goal – only Benzema (14) can do better.

    This is a player embracing responsibility, demanding the ball, and dazzling when he gets it: in short, he's showing all the best qualities of Neymar, Mbappe or anyone else Madrid may wish to buy, and offering fans everything they hoped for when he first arrived for €46million in 2018.

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    Whatever the reason, Vinicius has never looked so dangerous in a Madrid shirt. Worryingly for his opponents, there could be plenty more to come.

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    "We must be able to keep the ship steady in a stormy sea," Italy international Chiellini told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Sunday's match against Sampdoria.

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