Zinedine Zidane replaces Rafael Benitez as Real Madrid manager
By Gerard Brand
Last Updated: 05/01/16 9:39am
Zinedine Zidane has replaced Rafael Benitez as manager of Real Madrid following the Spaniard's sacking after just seven months in charge.
Benitez's last match as boss saw Real twice throw away a lead as they drew 2-2 at Gary Neville's Valencia on Sunday evening, leaving the club four points off leaders Atletico Madrid in La Liga.
Zidane, who made 225 appearances for the club, was managing Real Madrid Castilla, but has now been promoted to manager of the 10-time European champions.
In his 25 games into a three-year contract, Benitez led Real to 17 wins, five draws and three defeats at a win percentage of 68, the seventh-highest in the club's history.
Zidane will sign a two-and-a-half year deal on Tuesday to become Real Madrid's 13th manager this century, with the club having won just one league title in the previous seven seasons.
The Frenchman said at the club's press conference: "I'm going to do everything I can to make the best for this club. It's a very important day for me. What I can tell you is that I will give everything or this club.
"Ever since I arrived as a player I knew how great this club was. We have the best fans in the world and the best club in the world and I'll do everything to win.
"I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well."
Club president Florentino Perez said of Zidane: "He is one of the greatest players of all time. Zidane, you are from this moment, the coach of Real Madrid."
And of Benitez, Perez added: "I would like to make it clear that he is a great professional."
La Liga table
Benitez, 55, took over from Carlo Ancelotti in the summer of 2015 after the Italian was sacked in May, and the former Liverpool boss went unbeaten in his first 14 games in charge.
He also guided Real to the knockout stages of the Champions League, dropping just two points as they topped Group A.
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But Benitez's low point was Real's humiliating 4-0 defeat by rivals Barcelona in November's Clasico at the Bernabeu, adding to league defeats at Sevilla and Villarreal.
Last five Real Madrid managers
Further disappointment was to follow when Madrid were thrown out of the Copa del Rey for fielding ineligible player Denis Cheryshev against Cadiz last month.
Real's next game is against seventh-place Deportivo at the Bernabeu on Saturday, live on Sky Sports 1 and iPad from 7.15pm.
Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon told Sky Sports News HQ on Monday he believes Jose Mourinho would have been the best option to replace Benitez.
"People were very unhappy when Ancelotti was sacked," Calderon said. "He [Benitez] wasn't the first option, and the main problem is the president doesn't know which coach to choose.
"Zidane was a great, great player but he's been coaching for only two years. So perhaps it's too much to give him the responsibility of Real Madrid.
"It's his best option [to get Mourinho]. I think for Mourinho it's a difficult moment to decide, but I'm sure the president has offered it to him. Maybe Mourinho is waiting for Manchester United, it's been his main aim."