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Zinedine Zidane abruptly resigns as Real Madrid manager

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, just days after winning a third consecutive Champions League title at the club, has abruptly resigned.

Zidane announced the stunning decision himself at an out-of-nowhere news conference on Thursday. His tenure at Real Madrid, the first managerial stint of his post-playing career, ends after two-and-a-half years and three Champions League titles.

“This is a strange moment but a very important moment,” Zidane said. “And I had to do this for everyone. This team must continue winning and it needs a change that will be good for everyone.”

Madrid conquered Europe yet again, but slipped to third in La Liga, well off Barcelona’s title-winning pace. Zidane drew criticism all year – as any Real Madrid manager would, no matter how successful he is.

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“Madrid has given everything to me and I will be close to this club for the rest of my life,” Zidane, a former Real player, said. “But the team needs another methodology and that is why I have made this decision. For me and for everyone, today, a change is needed and that is why I have reached this decision.”

Zidane had been criticized for his hands-off approach. He had admitted to not being the best tactical coach. For a team with seemingly endless talent and a familiar core, that approach worked wonders.

But that core is aging, and there were signs this past season of decline. There is every chance Zidane realized that a different approach was necessary to combat that decline. There is also every chance he realized the decline was inevitable, and got out while he was on top, before it hit him and the club with full force.

“There are difficult moments when you can wonder whether you are the right person still. … The players need a change, I want to thank them too, as in the end they are the ones who fight on the pitch. This is a demanding club, not easy for them, with this great history. We always want more from the players, and a moment comes when I cannot ask them for more. They need another voice to return to winning again.”

Zinedine Zidane looks at President of Real Madrid, Florentino Perez, left, during a press conference in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, May 31, 2018. Zidane quit as Real Madrid coach on Thursday, less than a week after leading the team to its third straight Champions League title, saying the club needed a change in command. (AP Photo/Borja B. Hojas)

On top of the Champions League triumph, Real won La Liga last year under Zidane. But the trophy it lifted in Kiev on Saturday was the only European trophy of Zidane’s second full season in charge.

The former French great had taken over for Rafa Benitez in early January of 2016. Madrid’s search for a replacement will, of course, begin as soon as possible.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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