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Rafa Benitez sacked as Real Madrid manager, Zidane replaces him

The French legend has replaced the former Liverpool coach in the role.

Benitez leaves Real Madrid with the club just four points off the top of La Liga.
Benitez leaves Real Madrid with the club just four points off the top of La Liga.
Image: Francisco Seco

Updated at 20.22

RAFA BENITEZ’S TIME as Real Madrid manager has ended just seven months after he took the job, with Zinedine Zidane replacing him.

Real Madrid currently sit just four points off La Liga leaders Atletico, but Benitez has become increasingly unpopular among the club’s fans, while the media have accused him of adopting an overly negative style of play, despite the club scoring 27 goals in his last six games in charge.

Benitez had been under significant pressure since the 4-0 loss at home to bitter rivals Barcelona, while last night’s 2-2 draw with Gary Neville’s Valencia ultimately cost the ex-Liverpool manager his job.

Zidane, who has been coaching Real Madrid’s reserve team, scored 37 goals in 155 appearances during his five years as a player at the club between 2001 and 2006.

The 1998 World Cup winner, speaking at this evening’s news conference, said: ”This is an important day for me — like all new coaches, I’ve emotion, more than as player, but from tomorrow it will be something else.

“I will do everything possible with all players and hope it will all come out well. Tomorrow I’ll be with the team and get to work.”

Benitez, who was praised by Florentino Perez for undertaking a difficult role at this evening’s press conference, has a reputation as a safety-first coach and his methods have come under close scrutiny ever since he signed a three-year deal in June 2015.

After the game at Mestalla last night, Madrid director Emilio Butragueno refused to give assurances over Benitez’s future.

Butragueno had given Benitez his backing late last year, but was less forthcoming when asked on Sunday.

Asked if Benitez’s position would be discussed at a board meeting this week, Butragueno told Movistar+: “I think the team offered a good image.

The circumstances didn’t help, but even with 10 men the team could have won at the end. There has to be calm.”

Benitez himself was more interested in his team’s performance against Valencia and praised their efforts.

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He said: “You are entitled to ask the question (about my future) but I think it is misguided.

“It is a waste to only see the result. The effort made by the team deserves more praise than anything else.

I cannot control the speculation. What I do is I get the team to work as it has today. They have made a great effort and unfortunately have not taken all three points.

“We played a good game. In the first half for 35 minutes we had control, the second half was difficult but we worked well.

“When we were down to ten we had to make more of an effort and the players did that. We had chances of winning and losing, my regret is that after the goal we couldn’t stop their second.”

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