Rafa Benitez’s return to Real Madrid has ended in hasty failure.
Real Madrid fired Benitez as head coach Monday, Spanish newspaper AS reported Monday, citing radio station La Cope. Real Madrid is expected to announce the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as Benitez’s successor at a press conference later Monday. Benitez’s departure comes less than seven months after Real Madrid hired him to replace Carlo Ancelotti.
Benitez, 55, comfortably guided Real Madrid through the UEFA Champions League group stage, but the club’s third-place position in the La Liga (Spanish first division) standings and inability to overtake rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona cost Benitez the support of large sections of the fan base and the influential local media.
Benitez’s reign at Real Madrid ultimately lasted just 25 games, 17 of which ended in victory and five in defeat.
Real Madrid President Florentino Perez gave Benitez a vote of confidence on Nov. 23 following the 4-0 loss to Barcelona. Real Madrid won seven of its next nine games, but that wasn’t enough to save Benitez.
Real Madrid was expelled from the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) last month for using an ineligible player against Cadiz. Benitez wasn’t solely responsible for Real Madrid’s mistake, but many interpreted it as a sign the club was heading in the wrong direction under his leadership.
Benitez cried tears of joy during his introductory press conference at Real Madrid. His coaching career began with Real Madrid’s youth teams, and he wanted the three-year contract he signed in August to signal a fruitful homecoming. But Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw with Valencia on Sunday proved to be Benitez’s final act at the Estadio Bernabeu.
Zidane played for Real Madrid from 2001 until he retired in 2006. He worked as an adviser ambassador and administrator at Real Madrid until 2013 when he became an assistant on Ancelotti’s staff. Zidane has managed Real Madrid’s Castilla (reserve) team since the beginning of the season and the French legend now looks set to assume one of the soccer world’s hottest seats.
Thumbnail photo via Alberto Saiz/The Associated Press
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