The future looks uncertain for Zinedine Zidane following reports the three-time Champions League-winning manager will walk away from Real Madrid at the end of this season.
Los Blancos are still in with a chance of retaining La Liga, but the defending champions need Atletico Madrid to drop points at Real Valladolid on Saturday to have any chance of keeping their crown.
Real is the only club Zidane has led thus far in his coaching career, and another former employer from his playing days, Juventus, leads the way as a potential next destination.
But who else could be in the running to snap up the services of the 1998 Ballon d’Or winner if he decides to leave the Santiago Bernabeu this summer?
The club that put Zidane on the football map as a world-class midfielder, Juventus makes the most sense as a summer destination given their struggles this season.
Andrea Pirlo has failed to make the same seamless start to managerial life as his Madrid counterpart, with the Bianconeri losing their Serie A crown to rivals Inter Milan.
Zidane made 212 appearances for Juventus—only 15 fewer than he did for Real—and twice finished as a Champions League runner-up during his first two seasons with the Old Lady (1997-98).
The Turin giants won the Scudetto in each of those campaigns, not to mention a 1999 victory in the now-defunct Intertoto Cup, giving ‘Zizou’ fond memories of his time in northern Italy.
The move would also present the chance of a possible reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been linked with a Juventus exit following this season's poor performance.
However, the greatest obstacle between Zidane and a return to Juventus 20 years after his exit is whether they can secure a place in next season’s Champions League.
Pirlo’s side—currently fifth in Italy’s top-flight—must beat Bologna while hoping AC Milan (third) or Napoli (fourth) drop points when Serie A draws to a close on Sunday.
Failing to qualify for the Champions League could prove a sticking point for Zidane, whose greatest achievements to date as a manager have come in Europe’s top tournament.
A return to France could be on the cards for Zidane 25 years following his departure from Bordeaux, and Paris Saint-Germain have the means to tempt the serial winner.
Mauricio Pochettino is currently in charge at the Parc des Princes having replaced Thomas Tuchel in January, but pressure is already mounting on the Argentinian.
The Ligue 1 crown has been viewed as almost a given since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) purchased the club in 2011. However, Lille lead the title race heading into the final weekend, which could mean PSG fail to win the league for just the second time since 2012/13.
PSG will have their first chance at a major trophy this season when they face AS Monaco in the Coupe de France final on Wednesday, which could alleviate pressure on Pochettino.
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Zidane is one prominent name who may be waiting in the wings to take over the most powerful club in his birth country, with the face of France’s 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 triumphs sure to be a popular successor.
Having squeezed the most out of Ronaldo in his final years at Real, Zidane could be the key to optimising Neymar and convincing Kylian Mbappe—whose PSG contract expires in 2022—to remain in Paris.
Arguably the longest shot of any ‘contender’ hoping to recruit Zidane, Arsenal would struggle compared to some of their peers in proving they’re still relevant among Europe’s elite.
Mikel Arteta has struggled in his first full season at the Gunners helm and looks unlikely to secure any form of European football for next season, leading to reports he could be replaced this summer.
Having made his initial entry to the world of management at the pinnacle, however, it’s possible the prospect of a fixer-upper like Arsenal could appeal to Zidane at this point in his career.
It was, after all, compatriot Arsene Wenger who first fired the Gunners into the modern age as a European superpower, and Zidane may take to the idea of attempting to replicate that success.
It was during Zidane’s break between posts as Real boss in 2018 that Wenger told his fellow Frenchman “if you want to work at the top, it has to be England” in an interview with beIN Sports:
Spotify co-founder and chief executive Daniel Ek continues to be linked with a potential Arsenal takeover this summer, which could offer new interest to any inbound manager.
Speaking of north London clubs open to change, Tottenham are another outfit who could make an audacious attempt to sign Zidane as Ryan Mason’s replacement in the summer.
Mason was hired as interim coach following Jose Mourinho’s dismissal in April, but it seems unlikely the 29-year-old will be kept on even if he were to miraculously conjure up a fourth-place finish in the Premier League.
As is the case with Arsenal, missing out on Champions League football would be a major hurdle for Spurs in their hopes of luring a big name like Zidane, however.
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Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson believes speculation surrounding Harry Kane’s future at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is one factor that will put off potential managerial candidates.
The fact Tottenham also haven’t tasted major silverware since their League Cup win in 2008 is another barrier between them and Zidane, who might prefer greater guarantees of success in his next role.
Biding His Time
Rather than make an immediate return to coaching following any exit from Real Madrid, Zidane could take a page out of Pep Guardiola and Massimiliano Allegri’s book by taking a sabbatical.
The scope for available jobs could open up significantly should the Frenchman decide to bide his time, particularly in the Premier League.
Allegri last managed Juventus in 2019 and reportedly ‘would accept’ the Real Madrid job if Zidane leaves, while Guardiola took over Bayern Munich in 2013, one year after leaving Barcelona.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been lauded for his work in two-and-a-half seasons as Manchester United boss, but one more stretch of misfortune could convince those at Old Trafford a more elite tactician is needed.
Jurgen Klopp’s odds of being sacked by Liverpool dropped drastically following a woeful run of form in January and February, while the European Super League debacle also harmed his status at Anfield.
Zidane made his entry into senior management as a mid-season replacement for Rafa Benitez at Real, and the notion of coming in as saviour somewhere else might appeal.
READ MORE: Real Madrid decision may leave Arsenal with Martin Odegaard problem this summer
READ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo's age 'wouldn't be an issue' for Man Utd as Juventus exit nears
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