Why Zidane is tailor-made for Real Madrid
The Frenchman's authority will carry more weight with Real's prima donnas than Benitez's lectures on conservatism
Football's most impatient club are in a rare state of contentment - for the time being at least.
With Zinedine Zidane installed as Real Madrid coach, their 19th in 20 years, Florentino Perez's dream vision has finally been realised.
How do you solve a problem like the Galacticos? Hire one, of course.
But this is not an appointment to merely quell the unrest sparked by Rafael Benitez's seven-month tenure.
Yesterday, Perez saw his long-standing yet carefully crafted itch, one which has been nearly seven years in the making, finally scratched.
A Madrista in all but name, Zidane has been primed for the most difficult job in world football ever since he hung up his boots.
Firmly ingrained in the fabric of life at the Santiago Bernabeu, Perez has mapped that path to the dugout single-handedly.
Real's head honcho took every possible step to fast-track his protege's managerial education, even overturning a suspension for inadequate coaching qualifications, in his pursuit of Real's answer to the Pep Guardiola-spawned dynasty at Barcelona.
From Perez's adviser to the first-team ranks in the space of just 12 months, it was only a matter of time before Zidane would soon be stepping out of Carlo Ancelotti's shadow and belatedly into his shoes.
Now the 43-year-old has to ensure that his president's gamble has not been a mere vanity project.
Zidane knows the Galactico blueprint better than most.
He is acutely aware of the standards demanded by Perez, having been the benchmark that Real's current bespoke players are often compared and measured.
Gaining the ear of that dressing room will be a relatively mean feat.
Sergio Ramos, the last of his former teammates still at the Bernabeu, alone will doubtless extol his leadership qualities.
Even without that testimony, the authority of arguably the greatest player of his generation will carry more gravitas with a squad of swelled egos and prima donnas far more than Benitez's lectures on conservatism ever could.
A generous run of fixtures preluding the Madrid Derby with current La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid at the end of next month also offers the ideal start to life in the hot seat for a manager who earned his coaching badges barely eight months ago.
Perez, however, is not appeased by winning alone.
His premiership has often resembled a prepubescent child playing a real-life version of Fifa 16.
Decisions are taken on a whim often with a disregard for the corrosive effect it has on the alchemy of both the team and the club.
Buy this, buy that and to hell with the consequences - Benitez, 55, will have sensed deja vu when asked to oversee a squad built in the image of others rather than his own.
He famously cited such disparity when he left Valencia in 2004, claiming: "I expected a sofa and they brought me a lamp."
The Spaniard will also have sensed a familiarity that he is again the unwanted man being cast aside.
In truth, he was doomed from the very beginning, replacing the much-loved Ancelotti - a decision even Perez failed to justify when it was announced.
Gleaning fewer points than his predecessor at the same stage in the previous two seasons failed to ensure his homecoming was a happy one.
Even outscoring their La Liga peers failed to vindicate his notorious safety-first philosophy.
Other facets of his reputation continued to precede him.
Ryan Babel, who worked under Benitez at Liverpool, predicted his former manager would transform Cristiano Ronaldo into "a great defender" upon his Bernabeu return.
More credible voices within that Anfield dressing room were equally scathing.
Steven Gerrard described him as "emotionless and distant".
At the three clubs which followed, Marco Materazzi, John Terry and Marek Hamsik all spoke of the difficulties of working with the Spaniard.
Whether down to poor judgment or an unabashed belief that he could replace beloved figures at Inter Milan, Chelsea and now Real, Benitez has become a managerial pantomime villain.
ZIDANE PROMISES A TROPHY FOR REAL
You can’t compare me with Guardiola. I won’t compare myself, I never did that as a player and won’t do it as a coach. I need to be a coach my way. I have to be Zidane.
— Zidane (right), on comparisons with Pep Guardiola
Zinedine Zidane has vowed to win a trophy this season after replacing Rafael Benitez as Real Madrid on Monday.
The 43-year-old World Cup winner and former Real and France superstar was unveiled by club president Florentino Perez, after the Spanish giants confirmed that Benitez had been relieved of his duties just 25 games into his reign.
Speaking at a brief press conference, Zidane said: "I want to thank the club and the president for giving me the opportunity to train this club.
"It's the best club in the world with the best fan base in the world.
"I want to do my very best to ensure that this club at the end of the season will have a trophy."
"I will be working hard with all the players and I think it will go well," added the Frenchman, who played for the club between 2001 and 2006.
"I am looking forward to working with everybody tomorrow. Tomorrow is when the work starts.
"Thank you to everyone. It is an important day for me. It's an emotional day, even more emotional than the day I signed as a player for the club. I will put all the heart I have into this job for the club. Thank you very much."
Zidane, who had been working as manager of the club's B team Castilla, inherits a side sitting in third place in the La Liga table after last Sunday's 2-2 draw at Valencia.
However, Benitez's tenure drew to a premature close after months of speculation that he would not come anywhere near seeing out the three-year contract he signed in June last year, amid dissatisfaction among fans unhappy with both the departure of predecessor Carlo Ancelotti and his style of play, and rumours that he was at odds with key figures within the dressing room.
Perez paid tribute to the 55-year-old former Liverpool boss as "an absolute professional and a wonderful person", before handing responsibility for reviving the club's fortunes to Zidane.
He said: "Zinedine Zidane is a man who knows better than anyone what it means to stand at the front and lead Real Madrid.
"It is a difficult squad to lead but he throughout his career and throughout his life also has always been able to face up to huge challenges.
"Zinedine Zidane, this is your club, this is your stadium and you have all our support.
"Zidane, you are from this moment the trainer, the manager of Real Madrid. The word 'impossible' does not exist for you, Zinedine Zidane."
Thousands of Real fans turned out to cheer Zidane as he started his first day as coach of the Spanish giants yesterday.
While commentators expressed doubts about the Frenchman's experience, 5,000 fans packed the Alfredo di Stefano stadium at Real's training ground to see Zidane take his first session with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and other superstars.
"Zizou! Zizou!" the fans chanted as the World Cup winner walked out onto the pitch with his players wearing a grey tracksuit and fluorescent boots.
Zidane gathered the players around him and then kicked a ball to start a training exercise, drawing shouts from the crowds.
All eyes will now be on whether Zidane has the temperament and tactical ability to gel Real's Galacticos into a trophy-winning unit.
Key players such as Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez often showed their disgust when substituted by Benitez.
Off-field distractions also took their toll, with Benzema facing blackmail charges over a sex-tape of France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, and Rodriguez accused of speeding at up to 200kph last week.
Spanish media said he has his work cut out because of his lack of experience.
"The Frenchman is a football legend and a great figure of Madrid," wrote Marca, Spain's most read sports daily.
"But his coaching experience is inversely proportional to his excellent footballer's experience - limited... and controversial." - Wire Services.
To win everything. that’s our goal. We have two trophies we can win and we’re going to go for it.
— Zidane, on his targets
Five things about Zizou
World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane has taken over as coach at Real Madrid following the sacking of Rafael Benitez.
Zidane, who also played for the club, has won the European Championship with France as well.
PA Sport looks at five things you may not have known about the 43-year-old former midfielder.
1 NORTH AFRICAN HERITAGE
Zinedine Zidane was born in La Castellane, Marseille, in southern France. His parents emigrated to Paris from northern Algeria in 1953 before the start of the Algerian War.
Zidane grew up hoping to emulate the feats of famous Marseille players Enzo Francescoli and Jean-Pierre Papin.
2 CANNES DO FOR ZIZOU
Zidane began his professional career at Cannes in 1989 and, in his first full season, the club finished fourth and qualified for the Uefa Cup. He also played for Bordeaux before moving to Italy with Juventus, where he won successive Serie A titles.
3 BERNABEU BOUND
In 2001, Real Madrid paid a then world record of 75 million euros ($116m) to take Zidane to Spain, where he won the La Liga and Champions League titles as part of the club's famed Galacticos - the world stars who included the likes of Luis Figo, Ronaldo and David Beckham during his five years at the club.
4 WORLD STAR
Zidane won both the World Cup and European Championship with France. He won the 1998 World Cup, scoring two goals in the 3-0 win over favourites Brazil in the final on home soil. Two years later, Zidane helped France to win the European Championship title.
5 DISCIPLINARY PROBLEMS
The moment for which Zidane is most infamously known is in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy. During extra time, Zidane head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi in the chest. What is not so well known is that Zidane had form, having been sent off for head-butting Hamburg's Jochen Kientz in a Champions League tie in 2000 while playing for Juventus.