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May 27, 2018: Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in the final of UEFA Champions League 2018 to win the trophy for the third consecutive season.
May 31, 2018: Zinedine Zidane steps down as Real Madrid manager despite winning three back to back Champions League title.
No one will ever be able to understand the condition of a manager at Real Madrid. Despite leading Real to unprecedented success, the Frenchman decided to call on his time at the club.
Zidane took over at Real midway during the 2015/16 season. The club was in turmoil, and nothing was going right. But up stepped the iconic Frenchman, and he changed the fortunes of the club within the space of six months.
Despite having no managerial experience, Zidane guided Real to their 11th European trophy against all the odds. He assembled a broken side, got them playing together and made them look like a team.
The next season, 2016/17, was his first full season as manager. Unlike previous managers, he did not splash the cash, or made major changes to his European title winning squad. His major signings were the buyback of Alvaro Morata from Juventus, and bringing back an on-loan Marco Asensio from Espanyol.
His critics termed his decisions as disaster, and expected Real to fail that season. But they were made to eat their own words, as Zidane won the La Liga, Champions League double that season.
While results were very obvious to see, not many saw the astute and incredible team management by Zidane. The squad had at least 20 players world class players, fighting for the first XI. Big names like James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Isco did not play regularly. Yet, there was hardly any occasion when any of his players grumbled about their lack of game time. The man management of Zidane was impeccable.
Before the start of 2017/18 campaign, Zidane decided to offload many players from the squad. Morata, Danilo, James and Pepe all left the squad. The manager did not feel necessary to replace them. The only two noteworthy signings were of Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernandez.
It seemed this was the campaign where Zidane's inexperience would be there to see. With a small squad, and frequent injuries to important players, Real's performance and results dipped.
By the end of matchweek 20, the defending champions were a whopping 19 points behind arch rivals and leaders Barcelona in La Liga. The morale of the team was very low following a few ordinary performances.
Then came the worst on January 24, 2018. Leganes stunned Real at Santiago Bernebeau, and knocked the Spanish gianst out of Copa del Ray. Morale of the squad hit an all-time low, and everything seemed down from that point.
Yet somehow, Zidane magic worked as Real started to play with a swagger that they are known for. And the result could be seen in the UEFA Champions League, which they won for a record third consecutive time.
It took Carlo Ancelotti 19 years to win three European title. It took Bob Paisley seven seasons to win three European titles. But it took Zinedine Zidane just two and a half years to win three European titles. That just sums it up!