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French football legend Zinedine Zidane returns as manager of Real Madrid

AFP file photo

French football hero has made a sensational return to Real Madrid after the club sacked Santiago Solari, the Liga club said in a statement on Monday.

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At the press conference after the dramatic news, the president of the club Florentino Pérez said, “The best manager in the world has rejoined the club…Fans are proud that you are here again with us”.

Zidane, speaking after Pérez said, “I’m very happy to be here… And I want to get to work”.

The coaching change comes less than a week after two losses to Barcelona and another to Ajax. The results eliminated the club from the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, and ended its hopes of winning the Spanish league.

Zidane won an unprecedented three straight Champions League titles with the Spanish giants before resigning in May last year, with his replacement Julen Lopetegui sacked in October and Solari lasting just over four months in charge.

Popular with players, but Bale in doubt?

Immensely popular with most of the players, Zidane's appointment will almost certainly lift morale in the dressing room, following a week in which captain Sergio Ramos has reportedly argued with club president Perez and been involved in a training ground spat with Marcelo.

Gareth Bale was one of the few to suffer during Zidane's previous spell in charge, with the pair barely on speaking terms in the run-up to the Champions League final. Bale's future now appears in serious doubt unless their relationship can be quickly repaired.

The Welsh international might have left last summer had Zidane stayed but instead it was Cristiano Ronaldo that departed and the Frenchman now takes over a team missing the Portugese's goals and in urgent need of reform.

Club needs major boost

Despite Madrid's dominance in the Champions League, there is ground to make up in La Liga, where Barcelona are on course to seal their eighth league title in 11 years.

Madrid sit 12 points adrift of Barca in the table despite a 4-1 victory over Real Valladolid on Sunday, which proved to be Solari's final game in charge.

Solari was handed a contract until 2021 after overseeing an improvement following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui in November.

But familiar problems, including a lack of goals and a leaky defence, resurfaced in February as a defeat at home to Girona was quickly followed by losses to Barcelona in the league and cup, and humiliation by Ajax in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Zidan's long history with Real Madrid

Zidane has a long history with the club, even before managing the giants. The French star played for the club and was one of Real's key "Galacticos" – a label given to the star players signed by club president Florentino Perez in the early to mid-2000s. Zidane was the world’s most expensive player when he arrived at the Bernabéu in 2001, but more that proved his worth during his five-year stay. The French play-maker helped the side win the Spanish league in 2003 and was also named Fifa world player of the year.

Honours as Real Madrid manager:
3 European Cups
2 Club World Cups
2 UEFA Super Cups
1 LaLiga title
1 Spanish Super Cup

Honours as Real Madrid player:
1 European Cup
1 Intercontinental Cup
1 UEFA Super Cup
1 LaLiga title
2 Spanish Super Cups

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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