Zinedine Zidane has announced that he is leaving Real Madrid less than a week after guiding them to an unprecedented third successive Champions League title.
The club revealed on Thursday that Zidane was to appear in a hastily arranged news conference that caught many by surprise, fuelling speculation that his tenure at the Santiago Bernabeu could be coming to an end.
Zidane confirmed his departure at the start of the news briefing, just five days after he presided over the 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool.
“I have decided not to be Real Madrid coach next season,” said Zidane, who was joined by club president Florentino Perez.
“I spoke to Florentino yesterday [Wednesday] to tell him my thoughts, my feelings. I know it’s a strange moment for everyone involved, but I think it’s the right decision.
“I think this team needs to keep winning but I think after three years a change is needed, something different, a different message, different ways of going about things.
“That’s why I decided to take this decision. It’s a club I love and I love the president too, he brought me to this huge club and I will always be grateful, but I think a change is needed so I will not be here next season.”
Even European success, which he also managed in each of his first two seasons in charge of the team, has not been enough to persuade him to prolong his spell.
Madrid’s third-place La Liga finish is likely the major factor in Zidane’s departure, as Los Blancos ended the season 17 points adrift of bitter rivals and champions Barcelona.
He did, however, confirm that he was not pushed out of the exit door.
“It’s my decision,” he said. “For many people, this will not make sense, but it does for me. It’s time for a change.
“There have been tough times, in the Copa del Rey notably, and I don’t forget those. This club is in my heart. It ended well for me when I was a player and it’s ended well for me as a manager.”
Zidane was appointed as Real Madrid boss in January 2016 and took charge of Madrid 149 times. He won 105 of those games, and as well as three Champions League titles, he also enjoyed success in La Liga in 2016-17.