Benitez axe opens door for Zidane at Real Madrid
Rafael Benitez was sacked after just six months as Real Madrid manager last night, with the club appointing Zinedine Zidane as his replacement.
One of Benitez's old Premier League foes Gary Neville helped seal the Spaniard's fate when his Valencia side took a point from Real at the Mestalla on Sunday.
Directors of the Spanish club were in consultation throughout yesterday and after a board meeting last night, Real President Florentino Perez confirmed the dismissal.
The appointment of Zidane represented a snub for Jose Mourinho, who was understood to be interested after he was sacked by Chelsea in December.
Perez remains a huge fan of Mourinho, but the President sees Zidane as the man who will unite Real's squabbling players and supporters.
For Benitez it proved to be the impossible job. He was brought in with the remit of shaking up a team that had lost their intensity since being crowned Fifa World Club champions last December.
However, he upset senior players in the process and when they stopped playing for him the results suffered.
Benitez was unable to win any of the side's crucial away games against Villarreal, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Valencia in La Liga and Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, while Barcelona won the first clasico of the season 4-0 at the Bernabeu.
After that disastrous home defeat Perez said Benitez remained the "solution" but the problems kept mounting and, with attacking midfielder Isco threatening to leave the club and join Manchester City in this month's transfer window, Perez had the excuse to dismiss yet another coach.
Benitez wants to return to the Premier League, but neither the vacant Swansea job nor a move to Aston Villa is understood to appeal.
Another change of manager at Real means Gareth Bale now has his third coach at the club since joining two and a half seasons ago. He is understood to be upset by the sacking of the 55-year-old, which will encourage admirers Manchester United.