Zinedine Zidane’s shock resignation from Real Madrid in midweek took almost everyone by surprise including his own coaching staff. But sometimes we look too deeply for the answers when potentially these are staring us in the face.
Having contacted the coaches and medical / fitness teams after the Champions League celebrations to arrange a staff meeting to discuss preparations for the new season, David Bettoni and the rest of the backroom staff were stunned when they received a message from Zidane to say the meeting had been cancelled.
They were even more stunned when the news of his resignation followed.
So in a matter of a few hours, the elation that accompanied Real Madrid winning their third Champions League in a row disappeared to be replaced by a feeling of absolute disbelief.
Since then, various theories have been put forward as to why Zizou decided to call it a day. Some say that he was tired; having given everything to the club in the last two and a half years, and that constantly trying to keep all the playing staff happy was taking its toll on a man who had nothing to prove to anyone.
Others have suggested that comments made after the historic Champions League victory over Liverpool in Kiev contributed to Zidane’s decision to go; comments which seem to have been discussed at length ever since.
Yet there was no evidence whatsoever of any of the Real Madrid players looking unhappy with their personal situations during the celebrations on Sunday; either at Cibeles in the afternoon or later in the evening at the Bernabéu.
In particular, Dani Ceballos, who rarely featured in Real Madrid’s first team last season following his move from Real Betis appeared thoroughly delighted just to have been part of a squad that pulled off such a historic achievement.
Even Zidane’s numerous interactions with Florentino Pérez during the celebrations revealed nothing of what was to come; and the likelihood now is that nobody ever really expected Zidane to leave - even if he had, as it has been suggested, planted that seed in different minds a few weeks ago.
It has been said that Zidane had confided in one of his biggest supporters, Madrid’s skipper Sergio Ramos, that he may not be at the club to see in the coming season.
Neither has there been any indication of a rift with Florentino Pérez. On the contrary, the president’s door is always open to Zidane and nothing but respect exists between the two.
Based on trust rather than contractual obligations, Zidane’s relationship with Florentino Pérez is also unique; and likewise, he too will be finding it difficult to take it all in at this particular moment.
It might well be that Zidane has simply decided that he has had enough and needs a break. The almost-incessant media criticism, speculation over who might replace him and the constant spotlight over his future has maybe just taken its toll to the point where he feels he needs a break from it all.
And with nothing to prove to coaches, critics and players who can’t possibly emulate what Zidane has achieved in football, he may just have thought to himself “if you can do better, then fine; go ahead and show me”.
There’s no doubt that Zidane will be a huge act to follow; and this will have an influence on potential candidates for the vacancy.
Making the decision about his successor is not a task that the president will relish; especially when taking into account the respect and support of those players who had a genuine affection for Zidane like Cristiano, Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos to name but three.
Will the president make an appointment from within, such as Guti for example, or move for a high-profile coach from another club? Right now, we can only speculate and watch for developments.
This hasn’t been an easy piece to write. Like most of us, the last few days have been surreal and that will apply to Zidane’s staff as well; the most trusted of whom were hand-picked. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that David Bettoni, Hamidou Msaidie or Antonio Pintus will have had any inclination of things to come immediately after winning that third Champions League.
Although you sensed that the atmosphere in Kiev was slightly different to that expected after such an amazing achievement, there were no indications during the official celebrations in Madrid on Sunday of what was to come.
But there we are. Zinedine Zidane will have his own reasons why he decided to leave; and it’s hard not to jump to conclusions even when those conclusions appear to be staring you in the face. Of course, only time will tell.
At the moment, the indications are that this is only a sabbatical and that Zidane will return to Real Madrid in due course. Perhaps via the French national team, perhaps not. Either way, it’s a huge loss to everyone concerned but we must respect his judgement.
Where footballing matters are concerned Zinedine Zidane has been proved right over and over again in the past two and a half years. We trust that once again Zinedine Zidane will be proved right; with the most important decision he’s taken yet.