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31 May, 2021 11:02

Zinedine Zidane takes dig at president Perez over Real Madrid exit with open letter to Los Blancos fans

Zinedine Zidane takes dig at president Perez over Real Madrid exit with open letter to Los Blancos fans

In his first correspondence since leaving his post last week, ex-Real Madrid coach and club legend Zinedine Zidane has appeared to question president Florentino Perez via an open letter published by a leading Spanish newspaper.

Stepping down on Wednesday night before his decision was made official the following day, the Frenchman ended a second spell at the Bernabeu helm which was not as successful as the first.

Between 2016 and 2018, Zidane won a record three consecutive Champions League titles in addition to the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup twice, plus La Liga and the Spanish Super Cup once each.

In his sophamore reign from 2019 onwards, though, only the Liga and Super Cup were forthcoming as Los Blancos failed twice on the continent.

This season, they finished trophyless for the first campaign in more than a decade, and Zidane decided to leave before being fired as speculation he would be axed dominated press conferences and the two main sports newspapers in the Spanish capital.

One of them, As, has published an open letter from the 1998 Ballon d'Or winner to the Madrid faithful. 

And Zidane didn't hold back on expressing his unhappiness with the way things were handled during his time in the dugout.

"Dear Real Madrid supporters," he began. "For more than 20 years, from the first day I arrived in Madrid and wore the white shirt, you’ve shown me your love. I’ve always felt that there was something special between us.

"I’ve had the enormous honor of being a player and the coach of the greatest club ever, but above all I’m just another Madrid fan. For all these reasons I wanted to write this letter, to say goodbye to you and explain my decision to leave the coaching job."

Insisting that he returned in 2019 because Perez and supporters asked him to, he expressed gratitude to both parties and described being at Madrid for two decades as "the most beautiful thing that's happened to me in my life" which he owes "entirely" to Perez for smashing the world transfer record in 2001 when signing him from Juventus.

Stressing he will always be grateful to the European Super League supremo for fighting to bring him to La Liga, Zidane explained that he is going but "not jumping overboard" –and is not "tired of coaching" either.

"In May 2018, I left because, after two-and-a-half years, with so many victories and so many trophies, I felt the team needed a new approach to stay at the very highest level," he said. 

"Right now, things are different. I’m leaving because I feel the club no longer has the faith in me I need, nor the support to build something in the medium or long term.

"I understand football and I know the demands of a club like Real Madrid. I know when you don’t win, you have to leave.

"But with this, a very important thing has been forgotten. Everything I built day-to-day has been forgotten, what I brought to my relationships with the players, with the 150 people who work with and around the team. 

"I’m a natural-born winner and I was here to win trophies, but even more important than this are the people, their feelings, life itself – and I have the sensation these things have not been taken into account, that there has been a failure to understand that these things also keep the dynamics of a great club going. To some extent, I have even been rebuked for it.

"I want there to be respect for what we have achieved together. I would have liked my relationship with the club and the president over the past few months to have been a little different to that of other coaches. I wasn’t asking for privileges – of course not – just a little more recollection."

Highlighting that the average shelf life at a big club these days is two years, Zidane admitted to being hurt by constant rumors he would be fired after a defeat, and took a dig over "deliberately leaked messages to the media" which "negatively influenced the squad" and "created doubts and misunderstandings"

"Luckily, I had these amazing lads who were with me to the death. When things turned ugly, they saved me with magnificent victories, because they believed in me and knew I believed in them.

"Of course, I’m not the best coach in the world, but I’m able to give everyone – whether it’s a player, a member of the coaching staff or any employee – the strength and confidence they need in their job," Zidane claimed. 

"I know perfectly well what a team needs. Over these 20 years at Madrid I’ve learnt that you, the fans, want to win, of course, but above all you want us to give our all: the coach, the staff, the employees and of course the players.

"And I can assure you we’ve given 100% of ourselves to this club."

Zidane signed off with a message to vowing to remain a fan, adding that he regretted speaking to supporters largely about controversies and "very little [about] football".

Naturally, the letter has sent shockwaves around Spain and the rest of the football world. 

But while it is being dissected and onlookers wonder how and when Perez might respond, star striker Karim Benzema has lamented his roe model's departure.

"He's a very great coach. On a human level, he's the perfect man," Benzema said, while on international duty for France after a shock recall from Zidane's former Bleus teammate, Didier Deschamps.

"With me, he's magnificent. I'm disappointed that he is leaving Real, but that's how it is. Life goes on."