How long can Zinedine Zidane survive as Real Madrid manager?
The French legend takes becomes Spanish club's 14th manager this century after Rafa Benitez is sacked after just six months
On a day of high drama, even by Real Madrid's dizzying standards, Rafa Benitez was sacked as the club's manager and replaced by club legend Zinedine Zidane.
The decision to terminate the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager's contract seven months into his three year contract came a day after Real were held to a 2-2 draw by another of his old clubs, Valencia, now managed by Gary Neville.
The sacking also came just hours after the club's chief executive, Jose Ángel Sanchez, assured Benitez that his position was safe. It was a similar message to the one issued by Perez a fortnight ago, when he told a Spanish radio station that Benitez was the "solution" and not the “problem" to Real's plight.
Not that it is really a plight. Los Blancos are currently third in La Liga, two points behind Barcelona and four shy of leaders Atletico Madrid, Real finished top of their group in the Champions League and Benitez has guided the club to 17 victories, five draws and three defeats in 25 games in charge. They have also scored more league goals than any of their rivals this season, and beat Rayo Vallecano 10-2 last month.
But all that proved inadequate for Perez who sacked the former Liverpool manager and replaced him with the club's 14th manager since 2000. That man is Zidane, a legend as a player but a novice in terms of managerial experience.
According to The Guardian, the 43-year-old Frenchman only "completed his full licence badges in the summer" and has been in charge of Real Madrid's B team - Castilla - for just over a year. It's reported he will bring his backroom staff with him, and for the immediate future he is assured of the full support of the Real Madrid faithful.
In an extraordinary press conference on Monday evening Real president Florentino Perez told the assembled media: "We have taken a difficult decision, especially for me, to resolve Rafa Benitez's contract. He is a great professional and a magnificent person and we wish to express our gratitude for the work he has done over these months."
Zidane was then ushered onto the stage and announced as the new man in the hotseat. "I'm going to do everything I can to make the best for this club," said Zidane. "It's a very important day for me. What I can tell you is that I will give everything or this club. Ever since I arrived as a player I knew how great this club was. We have the best fans in the world and the best club in the world and I'll do everything to win."
Promising to put his "heart and soul into this job", Zidane proclaimed his confidence that he will be a success but he must also be aware that he could quickly go from hero to zero. With just one league title in the previous seven seasons, Real are desperate for silverware and if the club ends the season having failed to win either La Liga or the Champions League it will be deemed a failure by the fans.
Perez introduced Zidane as "one of the greatest players of all time", which he is, but will he be able to make Real the dominant force once more in Spanish football.
It's a task that over the last decade has defeated some of the best coaches of their generation - including Fabio Capello, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. Just surviving in the job is a tall order: since 1977 only four men have lasted three years in the post and Zidane is Real Madrid's 35th managerial appointment in that time.
So far his record with the B Team is less than stellar. Castilla aren't even top of their league and have won just 37 points out of a possible 57.