By Toby Prince
Zinedine Zidane has returned as coach of Real Madrid, just 284 days after walking away from the club.
The Frenchman, who won three consecutive Champions Leagues in two-and-a-half years at the Santiago Bernabéu, has been convinced to take over again – signing a new contract until June 2022 – following a week in which Madrid were defeated three times in a row at home.
Zidane replaces Santi Solari with immediate effect and will be in charge for the remaining 11 games in the season.
Solari had become increasingly desperate as manager following a torrid week that included a 3-0 home defeat to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey, another home loss to the Catalan side to effectively end their La Liga ambitions and a shock exit from the Champions League after a 4-1 humbling by Ajax at the Bernabéu.
Despite Solari stepping aside, the Argentinian will retain a role at the club.
Zidane was unveiled as manager for the second time on Monday evening, alongside Pérez, and said he was relishing the second chance at the club.
“It has been difficult from the outside looking in,” he said at a press conference at the Bernabéu. “I am looking forward to working with the players again, to competing again.
“I have been living here in Madrid, doing my things. But I have recharged my batteries. I’m ready to coach this great club again.”
Zidane dismissed suggestions that he had made the wrong decision when he decided to leave in the summer.
“When I left, it was the best decision for everyone,” he insisted. “The team and the squad needed a change. There is nothing more. I told you what I thought at the time.
“Nine months passed and the club called me again. I want to put Real Madrid back where it belongs. We all know it’s the best club in the world.”
Although Madrid have little to play for, Pérez had come under increasing pressure and the board were keen to prevent the crisis deepening over the next three months.
Zidane’s return is likely to be bad news for Gareth Bale, who had been left out by the Frenchman in the build-up to last year’s Champions League final. The pair did not have a close relationship and after the final whistle in Kiev, Bale admitted that he was considering leaving.