Just five days after sealing his third consecutive Champions League trophy, Zinedine Zidande surprised the footballing world by announcing his resignation as manager of Real Madrid, despite being contracted with the club until 2020. While his team finished the campaign on a high, the Frenchman has had a season of ups and downs and a disappointing domestic campaign, as well as other problems outside the dressing room. Here, AS takes a look at some of the reasons and motives behind his decision to quit:
Mission Complete: Three Champions Leagues in three years
In his two and a half years at the helm, Zidane has won nine titles, but believes that a new direction, a new drive and, perhaps, some new players are required for the club to maintain this level of success. Knowing how difficult it is to keep a team at this level year-in-year-out (just ask Diego Simeone), he has decided to leave on a high, and can boast of a League title, an unbeaten record in Europe and two World Club Cups. Few Real Madrid coaches have left their last press conference at Valdebebas to a round of applause. Zidane felt it was the right time to go and leaves with his reputation intact.
Signs of weariness in the League and Cup
Real's elimination from the Cup at the hands of Leganés was, as Zidane recognised himself, verification that his team's form in the League campaign was not just a run of bad luck. For the game against Leganés, Zidane left several regular starters on the bench or in the stands. But the players that came into the starting eleven did not measure up. The lacklustre performance confirmed that the draws against Numancia and Fuenlabrada in previous rounds had not been anecdotal, but hard evidence of a real problem. Zidane saw that complacency had set in and his message was not getting through to his players. The regular starters had begun to feel that they had a right to their starting place, while those on the bench were not giving what was expected of them. But instead of creating tension and administering punishments, Zidane put on a brave face, asked for unity and got his team focused on what they had left to battle for in Europe.
Uncertain futures of Ronaldo and Bale
Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale made comments after the Champions League final that cast doubt over their futures at the club and made clear that both stars are thinking of a possible exit -- Ronaldo for financial reasons, Bale for more game time. Zidane was certainly aware of both players' feelings. But out of the two, Bale's attitude would have worried him more. Ronaldo's concerns are purely related to business, whereas Bale's are down to team management and selection.
Florentino's transfer plans without Zidane's approval
The club manager and president have maintained a good relationship. But the relationship deteriorated somewhat as a result of the transfer plans Florentino Perez was making without Zidane's approval. While Florentino was trying to close the signing of keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, Zidane continued to publically defend Keylor Navas, stating, "he is my keeper". Zidane took a similar attitude when new names (particularly Robert Lewandonski) were being linked to the club as possible replacements for Karim Benzema. Also came Florentino's declaration of interest in Neymar, which not only angered Ronaldo. When asked about Neymar, Zidane was blunt and direct: "I haven't asked for him".
Zidane was undoubtedly upset by the fact that halfway through the season,when things were looking bad for his side, the media began to call his position into question, naming Joachim Löw and Mauricio Pochettino as his possible replacements. It was then Zidane knew that, even after all that he had achieved in such a short time, his position depended on one simple result: winning the Champions League. He didn't feel as valued in the boardroom as he did in the dressing room. This caused a sense of stress and disappointment, which may have swayed him to make the decision to a call time out on his coaching career.