Rafael Benítez has left his position as Real Madrid coach seven months after his appointment, with Zinédine Zidane taking charge having previously been at the reserve helm.
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Rafael Benítez has left his position as Real Madrid coach seven months after his appointment, with Zinédine Zidane taking charge.
The 55-year-old's departure was announced today along with the promotion of Zidane to his first head coaching role. The Frenchman, 43, previously worked as assistant to Benítez's predecessor Carlo Ancelotti and, since 2014, had occupied the helm of reserve team Real Madrid Castilla.
"This is an important day for me," said Zidane as he was unveiled alongside his family on Monday evening. "I'm more excited now than I was when I signed as a player. I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well.
"We have the best club and fans in the world. Tomorrow I will be with the team and get to work. Thanks to everyone. What we must do now, and what I will try to do, is all that is possible so that this team wins something at the end of the season."
The UEFA Champions League offers an opportunity, and Madrid will resume their campaign with a round of 16 first-leg trip to Roma on 17 February. Zidane – awarded his UEFA Pro licence last May – will hope to repeat his playing success in the competition in 2001/02. On that occasion he scored a famous volleyed winner in the Glasgow final against Bayer Leverkusen.
Club president Florentino Pérez announced Zidane's promotion, but first paid tribute to Benítez. "The board has just taken the difficult decision to end contract of Rafael Benítez as first-team coach," Pérez said. "He is a great professional and person, and we thank him for his work."
An assistant, reserve and youth coach at the Santiago Bernabéu earlier in his career – having joined in 1986 – Benítez returned to Madrid last June, two days after the end of his two-year spell with Napoli.
A two-time Liga champion as Valencia boss, as well as a UEFA Champions League winner with Liverpool, he oversaw a successful group stage campaign this time around, with Madrid having the best points tally of any club – 16 – and equalling the competition-record victory by beating Malmö 8-0.
However, Sunday's 2-2 draw at Valencia left the Merengues third in the Liga – four points adrift of leaders Atlético – despite their 10-2 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano a fortnight ago.