MADRID – Zinedine Zidane leaves Real Madrid with a clear conscience, but with the thorn in that he did not have enough tools to lead the sports project that he had envisioned when he decided to return to the club in March 2019.
ESPN had access to the main reasons why the Frenchman decided to leave the Santiago Bernabéu despite having yet another season under contract.
On March 11, 2019, Zidane surprised when he returned to the Madrid bench just 10 months after leaving after declaring that the team “needed a change to keep winning.”
The Frenchman replaced Santiago Solari after a few months in which neither the Argentine nor his predecessor, Julen Lopetegui, managed to maintain the level of a team that, with Zidane at the helm, had won three consecutive Champions League titles.
Zidane agreed to return to try to turn the situation around again, but sources close to ESPN acknowledge that he did so under promises that have not been fulfilled in the two and a half years that his second stage at the Santiago Bernabéu has lasted.
It all starts with Gareth Bale. The relationship between the Welshman and Zidane began to erode in the final of the Champions League in Kiev in which Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1. The Frenchman did not start the Welshman but the former Tottenham Hotspur came off the bench and was vital with a spectacular double.
That day was the day that Cristiano Ronaldo announced his intentions to leave but it was also the day that a divorce between Zidane and Bale began that did not have a happy ending.
Sources close to the coach tell ESPN that the white club promised to seek an “immediate” exit to the Welshman after the return of Zidane. The French coach went so far as to admit in public during the summer of 2019 that the best thing for all parties was for Bale to leave Madrid but that departure was delayed for a season.
Thus, the coexistence during the past course between the coach and the attacker was very complicated and the French had to “swallow hard” not to say in public what he really thought about Bale’s attitude.
In addition, the same sources tell ESPN that Zidane asked for a physical midfielder “box to box” to complete his white midfield but that player did not arrive either. Many internal voices of Real Madrid respond by saying that “he had Marcos Llorente and he didn’t want him …” but Zidane preferred Paul Pogba because his work team handled physical records that showed that the Frenchman performed better than the now Atletico player Madrid “in demanding matches”. Pogba, very expensive, never made it to the Bernabéu and neither did another player of his profile.
Other reproaches that have always been assigned to Zidane from the club is his mismanagement with young people. The environment of the French asked “patience” with those players but in the entity they considered that they had made a great effort for footballers like Vinicius Jr and asked the French to do his part so that promises became “realities”. Sources indicate to ESPN that this clash, without being as direct as others, has also had a certain impact on a Zidane who preferred to rely on the most veteran footballers of his squad in the most complicated moments.
In the same way, the technician’s environment also confesses to ESPN that Zidane felt lonely on many occasions. The fact of being the only public figure who showed his face every week did not matter to him because they consider that it is a responsibility that “went with the salary”, but the coach missed “some support” from the club at times key code.
In fact, sources acknowledge to ESPN that one of the things that most bothered the French coach were the messages that the board slipped on several occasions through certain media related to Florentino Pérez.
From Zidane’s environment they remember that, before the Champions League match against Galatasaray in the 2019/2020 season, several media reported that the Frenchman could be fired if he lost that match and that Madrid already thought of José Mourinho as his possible substitute. This same season something similar was repeated up to two times. Zidane, according to some media, was on the ropes before the first La Liga Clásico that Madrid won by 1 goal to 3 and also when the team was about to be eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League.
Zidane came to ask for respect for him and his squad in a press conference in the face of so much information questioning his continuity but from the club they believe that the French “cannot complain” because they consider that the entity has given him a “wide hand” these two and a half years.
ESPN has also been able to know that the wear in its relationship with Isco or Marcelo, the insecurity about the future of key players for Zidane such as Lucas Vazquez, Sergio Ramos or Raphael Varane and the lack of signings during the last summer market have also been decisive so that Zidane has decided to leave the white club.
And all despite the fact that, before the last league game against Villarreal, Zidane came to consider the option of continuing. The Frenchman asked the club for a few days to reflect coldly and on Wednesday he decided that the best thing for all was that his second stage at the white club came to an end in the most friendly way possible.