Rafael Benitez has been sacked as manager of Real Madrid after just seven months in charge at the Bernabeu.
The 55-year-old Spaniard was relieved of his duties following a meeting of the club’s board on Monday.
Real’s B team coach Zinedine Zidane, 43, has been promoted to the role of first-team boss.
Frenchman Zidane, a former Real player and World Cup winner, said: “I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well.”
Benitez’s final game was Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Valencia, which left them third in La Liga, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.
The right replacement for Rafa?
For a man with no experience of managing at the top level, Zidane’s appointment could be considered a risk – but he has long been seen as a future Real boss.
Zidane has been coach of Real’s B team – who are second in the Spanish third tier – since 2014. Prior to that he was an integral member of the backroom staff under then Real boss Carlo Ancelotti, who led the side to ‘La Decima’ – the club’s 10th European Cup.
During his playing career, the Frenchman was one of Real’s key ‘Galacticos’ – a label given to the expensive players signed by club president Florentino Perez in the early to mid-2000s.
Real paid Juventus a then world record fee of £45.8m in 2001 for the midfielder, who had already won the World Cup and European Championship.
At the Bernabeu, he played alongside players such as Luis Figo, Raul and Ronaldo, and also featured in the same midfield as England captain David Beckham.
During a five-year stay, he helped the side win the Spanish league in 2003 and was named Fifa world player of the year for the third time that year.
But perhaps his defining moment came during the 2002 Champions League final, when he scored a stunning volley against Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park.
What next for Benitez?
Benitez may be loved in Liverpool and Valencia, but his reputation as a manager has diminished in his past two jobs – at Napoli and Real.
replaced Walter Mazzarri as Napoli boss in May 2013, and won the Coppa Italia in his first season in charge, but things soured in his second and final season.
Napoli failed to make the Champions League despite the big-money signings of Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Maria Callejon, Raul Albiol and Dries Mertens, with Benitez criticised for his rotation policy and stubborn adherence to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Real lost just three of their 25 competitive matches under Benitez, but the club’s supporters quickly tired of what they regarded as a sterile and unexciting style of play.
West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan said last month that Benitez was
“two hours away” from being appointed Hammers boss before he took the Real job.
His trophy-laden CV map tempt other Premier League clubs to turn to a man whose family home is still in Liverpool.
And what next for Mourinho?
Real overlooked one of their notable former managers in turning to Zidane.
Jose Mourinho guided the club to the league title in 2012 and – following his sacking by Chelsea last month – is available.
He has unfinished business at the Bernabeu having failed to win the Champions League – a prize coveted perhaps more than any other by Los Blancos.
But there were reports his relationship with forward
Cristiano Ronaldo broke down during his last spell in charge, while he also had high-profile clashes with fan favourites Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas.
And following Mourinho’s departure from Chelsea, Perez said there would be
no imminent return to the Bernabeu for ‘the Special One’.