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Zinedine Zidane: The prodigal son returns to Real Madrid for new challenges

Zinedine Zidane has been reappointed as Real Madrid coach nine month after resigning, replacing Argentine Santiago Solari who was sacked. 

Zidane is back

Zinedine Zidane said he never had any doubts about returning to Real Madrid after he replaced the sacked Santiago Solari as a coach on Monday. 

"When the president called me the first thing I thought was: go," Zidane said at a press conference at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"I could not say no, I never had any doubts about going back." 

Zidane has been given a contract until June 2022, just nine months after he resigned at the end of last season, having led Madrid to a historic third consecutive Champions League triumph. 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Solari's exit was certain

Santiago Solari's dismissal was expected after three consecutive home defeats - to Barcelona, twice and Ajax - deemed Madrid's season all but over before the middle of March. 

Although, Real have offered Solari the chance to remain at Madrid in a different role if he wants to continue working at the Bernabeu. 

"I don't blame anybody. Lopetegui and Solari wanted to do the best they could for the players, the team and the club. It went how it went, I won't get into that, we must look forward," said Zidane. 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Zidane returns for new challenges

Zidane coming back, with only 11 games left in La Liga and almost nothing to play for, is a surprise, particularly after he left on the incredible high of yet another European triumph. 

"I left because a change was needed at the end of last season, for the good of everyone, after winning so much," Zidane said. 

"I returned because the president called me. I love him and I love this club, so here I am." 

Zidane inherits a squad that has evolved even in the short time he has been away, with Cristiano Ronaldo gone and the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Vinicius Junior and Sergio Reguilon all enjoying greater prominence this season. 

The challenge will be for Zidane to oversee a period of change in the summer when older players could be replaced and younger talents brought through. 

(Photograph:AFP)

Zidane's club career

Zidane moved to Girondins Bordeaux in 1992 and scored 28 goals in 139 league appearances during four seasons. 

After that, he moved to Juventus in 1996 and helped the club win two Serie A titles in his first two seasons. With Zidane Juve also won the European Super Cup and the World Club Cup. 

Zidane played in the Champions League final in 1997 and 1998 but the club was beaten both times, by Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid respectively. 

Zidane became the world's most expensive player in 2001 as he moved from Juventus to Real Madrid for $87.10 million. 

He helped Real Madrid to win the Champions League in 2002 with a majestic winner in the 2-1 final victory over Bayer Leverkusen.

The club also won the Intercontinental Cup as Real beat South American champions Olimpia 2-0. 

With Zidane, Real won the Liga title in 2003. 

(Photograph:AFP)

Zidane's international career

Zidane remains one of the game's all-time great players, his blend of sublime skill wrapped up in a muscular frame driving France to victory in the 1998 World Cup on home soil. 

He came back for them too, returning one year after announcing his international retirement in 2004 and leading France to the 2006 World Cup final, when he was sent off for headbutting the Italian defender Marco Materazzi. 

Zidane is affectionately known as "Zizou". 

(Photograph:AFP)

Zidane's illustrious managerial career

In 2013, Zidane was appointed as an assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid and in January 2016 he replaced sacked Real manager Rafa Benitez. 

Zidane became the first manager to win three European Cup titles in a row. 

He also guided the club to a Liga title in the 2016-17 season and two FIFA Club World Cup crowns. 

On May 31, 2018, he stepped down after leading the club to third consecutive Champions League title. 

Individual managerial awards: 

The Best FIFA Football Coach: 2017
World Soccer Magazine World Manager of the Year: 2017

(Photograph:Reuters)

What's next for Real Madrid

Zidane's prime focus is likely to be Chelsea's Eden Hazard. He previously has spoken of admiration for Zidane. 

"Everyone knows the respect I have for Zidane as a player but also as a manager, he was my idol," Hazard once told Belgian TV. 

"To play under Zidane would be a dream."

Spanish newspaper Marca ran a poll on Monday with 56 per cent of over 128,000 respondents saying Hazard should be Real's main transfer target, with Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane in second place on 10 per cent and Neymar third with nine.  

Diario Sport reported that Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar, once of Barcelona, is Madrid's big transfer target as they bid to fill the hole left by Ronaldo and are willing to spend up to $393.65 million on Brazil forward.

Speaking to reporters after Zidane's presentation, Perez also joked about Neymar's PSG strike partner Kylian Mbappe. 

"Zidane's French, so maybe he can do something about (signing) Mbappe," said the Real Madrid chief. 
 

(Photograph:AFP)