Exit Benitez, enters Zidane

NEW ERA . . . Zinedine Zidane (left) with club president Florentino Perez has been announced as the new Real Madrid manager following Rafa Benitez’s sacking last night

NEW ERA . . . Zinedine Zidane (left) with club president Florentino Perez has been announced as the new Real Madrid manager following Rafa Benitez’s sacking last night

MADRID — Rafa Benitez has been sacked by Real Madrid after just seven months in charge with club legend Zinedine Zidane announced as his replacement last night.

The decisive moment arrived when the Spanish giants called an emergency meeting after Madrid failed to beat Valencia on Sunday. Club president Florentino Perez decided to swing the axe with the club sitting third in the table, two points behind rivals Barcelona, and four behind league leaders Atletico Madrid.

Zidane will step up from the B-team to take control of first team affairs until at least the end of the season.

Speaking at a press conference last night where he announced the club’s decision, Perez said: “Rafa Benitez is an absolute professional and a wonderful person. We have decided to nominate Zinedine Zidane as the new manager of Real Madrid.”

Addressing Zidane, Perez said: “This is your club, this is your stadium. And you have all our support. From this moment, you are the trainer of Madrid.

“I know that the word ‘impossible’ does not exist for you.”

Perez remains a huge fan of Jose Mourinho and the former Chelsea manager remains an option for the Spanish giants at the end of the season if the Zidane experiment fails.

Accepting the role, Zidane, who won La Liga and the Champions League in his time with Real as a player, said: “This is the best club in the world and the best fan-base in the world. I want to ensure that by the end of the season, the club will have a trophy.

“I will be working hard with all the players and I think that it will go well. Tomorrow (today) is when the work starts. I will put all my heart into this club. Thank you everyone.”

Benitez was unable to win any of Madrid’s big away games so far this season with Villarreal, Sevilla and Barcelona all beating them and Atletico Madrid, Valencia and PSG all taking a point.

Real Madrid have an open training session today with thousands expected to flock to the club’s Valdebebas training ground to see the players put through their paces. But it will be Zidane and not the former Liverpool coach in charge as Real Madrid begin another new era.

After Sunday’s draw with Valencia Benitez arrived in the press room at Mestalla wearing a gaunt look as he batted away question after question over his future.

“I can only make sure that we work hard in every game,” he said. “I thought we did that tonight and I’m pleased with the players.”

Asked if the draw would cost him his job, Benitez replied: “That’s only if we look at the result. This performance deserves more praise than criticism.

“I can’t avoid people speculating (about my job). But I can make sure that the side works the way it did today.”

“We saw a great team with 10 players that stood up to be counted until the end, when we had a great chance to win.”

Pressure has been mounting on Benitez for several weeks with the club trailing Atletico Madrid and Barcelona and Real Madrid supporters have been clamouring for change. — MailOnline.

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