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Real Madrid sack Rafa Benitez, appoint Zidane as manager

Real Madrid has fired manager Rafael Benitez following a string of disappointing results with reserve team boss Zinedine Zidane taking over as head coach at the Santiago Bernabéu with immediate effect.

Real Madrid chairman Florentino Perez announced on Monday evening that Rafa Benitez has been sacked as manager of the Spanish club following weeks of speculation and a string of uninspired results, and simultaneously unveiled Zinedine Zidane as the new head coach.

Benitez had been under pressure following three defeats in five games from November to December, results that have seen Real slip behind in the Spanish title race, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two behind Barcelona, who thrashed Los Blancos 4-0 in their own back yard at the end of last month.

A frustrating draw at Valencia on Monday night was the last straw for the Real hierarchy, who have moved to install former player Zidane, who became the world’s most expensive player when he moved to the Spanish capital in 2001, as Benitez’ replacement.

“This is the best club in the world and the best fan base in the world,” Zidane told a packed news conference upon his unveiling on Monday evening.

“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 is when the work starts. I will put all my heart into this club. Thank you everyone.”

Former Liverpool and Chelsea manager Benitez, who was appointed as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor in June, began the season with an unbeaten 14-game run and comfortably guided his side through to the last 16 of the Champions League as winners of Group A.

But with inconsistent results over the winter period, Real thrown out of the Copa del Rey last month for fielding an ineligible player and Benitez’ relationship with influential squad members on the wane, Perez and the board have decided to act.

Despite speculation mounting over his future in the Spanish capital, Benitez was given a vote of confidence from the club in November. But he has ultimately failed to win over fans with his team selections and style of play despite Real Madrid leading the way in the La Liga goalscoring charts.

Zinedine Zidane’s first match as manager of Real Madrid will come against seventh placed Deportivo de La Coruña this coming Saturday.

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