Comment: Why Bale, Ronaldo, Mourinho and Conte could now all be caught up in the Real Madrid soap opera
Zinedine Zidane’s shock departure as Real Madrid head coach will send shockwaves across the European game for weeks to come, with the futures of top players and manager likely to be affected by the Frenchman’s decision to step down.
Zidane confirmed his extraordinary two-and-a-half-year reign as Real Madrid coach is ending at a hastily arranged press conference on Thursday, just five days after he led the club to a third successive Champions League triumph after a win against Liverpool in the Kiev final.
Now the rumour mill speculating who will fill the void left by Zidane, with departed Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger mentioned as a possible contender to fill the void in a summer when so many of the possible contenders appear to be out of reach.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has been strongly linked with a move to the Bernabeu in recent months, but he signed a new contract with Spurs last week and appears to have committed the north London club.
It remains to be seen whether that loyalty will be tested if a call from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is made to Pochettino in the next few weeks, with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp another possible contender who appears to be committed to his current role.
The soon to be former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte would be a strong contender to take over from Zidane, while Perez has made no secret of his desire to bring Jose Mourinho back to Real Madrid after his spell in charge at the club ended in 2013.
The Bernabeu chief is believed to have made attempts to recruit the coach currently in charge of Manchester United before Rafael Benitez was appointed in the summer of 2015 and after a troubled few months at United, Mourinho may be tempted to return to Madrid if he was offered the chance to succeed Zidane.
Whoever eventually takes over, the coach trying to continue the Zidane success story at appears to have a huge challenge on his hands.
As if improving on a hat-trick of Champions League titles was not daunting enough, there are also big doubts over the futures of Real Madrid’s star men Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Both Ronaldo and Bale hinted they may attempt to leave Real Madrid following the Champions League final win against Liverpool last Saturday, with the future of both now likely to be affected by Zidane’s decision to step down.
Real Madrid president Perez is a big fan of Bale and has questioned why he has not been more heavily involved in Zidane’s first team plans over the course of this season, with his stunning goal in the Champions League the Welshman’s answer to his critics.
Bale admitted after the game last weekend that Zidane had not spoken to him after the game, with most observers believing that highlighted a breakdown in communication between player and coach.
Inevitable links with Manchester United followed Bale’s comments that he wanted to consider his future at Real Madrid, but his position may now change if a new coach looks to build his team around the player signed from Tottenham for £86m in 2013.
Ronaldo’s future is also under consideration, with rumours of a possible switch that would see him move to Paris Saint-Germain and Brazilian superstar Neymar moving to Real Madrid continuing to be floated in recent months.
What will not change in the Real Madrid set-up is the overbearing influence of president Perez, who will continue to make the key decisions on transfers and always demands instant success from the coach that will replace Zidane.
The ripples from the departure of the most successful coach of recent times will continue to affect the game for weeks and months to come and when Real Madrid are at the centre of a big story, anything could be possible in the post-Zidane era.