Zinedine Zidane's Time is Up, Real Madrid Want Jose Mourinho, Says Former President

The former president of Real Madrid believes Zinedine Zidane will leave the club at the end of the season by mutual consent to save his reputation at the Bernabeu after a dramatic dip in form—but he warns it will be difficult to find a replacement.

Ramon Calderon, president from 2006 through 2009, says Real are unlikely to sack Zidane as the club only has the Champions League to challenge for now, a competition the French coach has won twice as manager.

A 2-1 defeat to Leganes at the Bernabeu on Wednesday (January 24) saw Real eliminated from the Spanish Cup while being 19 points behind Barcelona in La Liga. Despite Zidane's vast success, Calderon says his time is up.

"I think so," he told Newsweek. "Not only because of the results, but I think he is also a bit fed up with the situation. He really didn't want to be a coach, he was pushed by the situation he had when [his predecessor Rafael] Benitez was sacked [in 2016].

"Zidane had a lot of respect from the fans as a player but now, as a coach, it is complicated to stay. I don't think he wants to lose his image with the fans, as an icon from his time playing, and now he has been booed in the last few matches."

Real have slipped to fourth in La Liga and will end the season without silverware if they fail to win the Champions League, leaving many at the Bernabeu calling for change. A remarkable situation considering it is just eight months since Zidane led Real to a second Champions League title in as many years—the first time any club has achieved that feat.

"People here are very demanding so, for Zidane, it is a problem," Calderon explains. "He started to coach, not for fun, but as an obligation because his son was playing in the youth teams and he wanted to help them. He doesn't need money and, also, I don't think his vocation is to be a coach."

Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Madrid, Spain, January 24. Pressure is mounting on Zidane despite winning two Champions League titles. Denis Doyle/Getty

So what went wrong? "Zidane had no particular method. He is a coach who relies on the talent, the skill, the imagination of the players. But you cannot live that for too long. It's been two years, we won two Champions League which was fantastic but perhaps it covered the reality of not having a particular method."

Calderon, a 66-year-old lawyer based in Madrid, expects a "friendly deal" to be made at the end of the season, to prevent any harm to Zidane's image. He says the board will be considering potential replacements now and knows some of the candidates previously wanted by current president Florentino Perez, which include Germany's national team coach Joachim Löw.

"It's not easy to find the right coaches," he says. "I know before he signed Zidane, when Benitez was sacked, the president wanted Joachim Löw but he wanted to stay with the German national team. Now they are talking about [Tottenham manager Mauricio] Pochettino.

"They will try to check with coaches to see who will be good for the team, but it's not easy. All the coaches know the history, that coming here you need to win to remain in the club. Not many coaches wanted to come knowing that. They know they have not much time to stay."

Perez's plans to bring back the man he really wants, according to Calderon, will have taken a blow this week after Jose Mourinho signed a new contract at Manchester United on Thursday (January 25), keeping him at Old Trafford until 2020. Mourinho has already had a spell in Madrid, when he led the club to the La Liga title in 2012, halting the domination of Pep Guardiola and Barcelona.

Jose Mourinho
Joachim Low

"The one he would really like to come back is Mourinho," Calderon says. "He tried when Benitez was sacked, but Mourinho said he didn't want to come in the middle of the season. He said he would consider at the end of that season, but Zidane won the Champions League so there was no way to sack him or finish the relationship. Now Mourinho has extended the contract there's not many; maybe Joachim Löw, he's the most wanted for the president now."

And what of Calderon? If he were back in the decision-makers' chair in Madrid, who would he be approaching to return Real to glory? "I know he's not willing to be there anymore, he has a problem with the president, but my choice would be [Vicente] Del Bosque," he says, referring to the 67-year-old Spanish coach who won two Champions League titles and two La Ligas during his time as Real head coach at the turn of the century.

"I think he did a fantastic job. He knows the house quite well, he knows the way the team works. He had a very incredible record. If I were there, I would talk to him. I think he's one of those coaches like Fergie at Man United. He could be a very good coach for Real."

If Zidane does end up leaving, the new manager will know the cauldron they are entering. "For other clubs winning is success, here it is an obligation," Calderon says. The white handkerchiefs are always at the ready.