It was just a matter of when rather than if, and when that when came it was hardly a surprise as Rafa Benitez's time as Real Madrid manager came to a premature end. The Task of getting this super-star filled lineup up and firing again has been given to a man who has been there and done it all as a player – Zinedine Zidane.
Benitez and Real Madrid never looked like the right fit, and despite the Spaniard's best and most sincere efforts, there was only ever going to be one result, after Barcelona thumped them 4-0 in the El Clasico late last year.
"Today we have made the difficult decision, particularly for me, to terminate the contract of Rafa Benitez as first-team coach," Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said in a statement. "I wish to underline that he is a great professional and a magnificent person, and I would like to take this opportunity to place on record my gratitude to him for his hard work and dedication during his months as coach of Real Madrid."
Benitez lasted all of seven months at Real Madrid, but with the fans never on board with his style of play and the media far from convinced he was the right man for such a high-profile job, his time at the Bernabeu looked numbered the moment he took over from Ancelotti, whose popularity with the fans and players did not help the Spaniard's case either.
Zidane was the manager of Real Madrid's B team, taking over after spending time as Carlo Ancelotti's assistant. The main reason behind delaying Benitez's always-inevitable sacking is believed to be because Perez was still not convinced the Frenchman was ready to handle the reins at Real. As good a player as Zidane was – and there were/are very few better in the modern game – managing Real Madrid is a task he will find extremely difficult.
"I would also like to announce that the Real Madrid board of directors have decided to name Zinedine Zidane as the new coach of the first team," Perez added. "There can be no doubt that Zidane is one of the game's all-time great figures.
"He knows better than anyone just what it means to lead the Real Madrid first-team squad. He's fully aware of how tough and at the same time how exciting this demanding position is. Furthermore, Zidane knows the players, as many of them lifted the club's tenth European Cup in Lisbon with him as assistant coach."