The Frenchman, a World Cup and Champions League winner as a player, took over from Rafael Benitez mid-season in January 2016 and steered Madrid back on course to win their 11th European Cup.
But nobody could have predicted that Zidane would complete the feat of defending that trophy last season, also adding La Liga to net an impressive double.
Last weekend in Kiev, Zidane helped Madrid become the first team in 40 years to win three consecutive European Cups and the first in the Champions League era, marking him out as one of club football’s most successful coaches less than three years into his managerial career.
And yet the 45-year-old former Ballon d’Or winner announced on Thursday morning in a surprise press conference at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training ground that he would not be continuing as the club’s manager.
“I spoke to him to explain a little what I was thinking at the moment. First for me, the squad, the club I think it’s a bit of a weird moment but an important one that is good for everyone. What I think is that this team needs to continue winning but I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology and that’s why I took this decision.
“I love this club and the president who gave me the chance to play for this club and manage the club of my dreams. But everything changes and that’s why I’ve taken the decision to leave.”
The club president Florentino Perez said: “This was a totally unexpected decision and today is a sad day for me and for everyone who works for this club. When he says he’s taken a decision though, we have to accept it.
“I tried to convince him but I know how it is. He knows he has all our love and support. One can’t be prepared for something like this. I remember the first time I went to his house and asked him to coach Real Madrid and he was absolutely convinced he could win things.
“We must thank him for his care and passion for Real Madrid over these years. The only thing I want to say is ‘hasta pronto’ because I know he will return, maybe after a rest.”
Zidane added: “There are really beautiful moments, ending in a spectacular moment winning the third Champions League, but there are hard moments too. I think it’s the right time. I think the players need a change but I should thank them because at the end of the day it’s them that fight out there and this is a club of very high expectations.
“We always want more and more, I couldn’t ask for more from these players but now is the time for them to have a different voice in the changing room. The squad already knows. I’ve not talked to them all individually but they all know, by message, yes. I spoke with the captains and with Sergio Ramos. The players have nothing to do with my decision.”
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