Zinedine Zidane will head into pivotal talks with Real Madrid “in the next few days” after his team finished the season empty-handed.
A 2-1 win over Villarreal on Saturday was a hollow success, given rivals Atletico Madrid also won to clinch the LaLiga title, and Zidane summed up his emotions afterwards by saying: “My mood is screwed up.”
Late goals from Karim Benzema and Luka Modric saw Madrid turn around the home game, after Yeremy Pino gave Villarreal the lead.
That goal made Yeremy the youngest player to score away against Madrid in LaLiga in the 21st century, at the age of 18 years and 214 days.
Villarreal have a Europa League final against Manchester United in Gdansk ahead of them on Wednesday, but Madrid’s season is over.
Zidane is widely expected to leave, but he held fire on confirming his plans in the wake of the Villarreal game.
“We have to be calm. I’m going to talk to the club quietly, but later. Not now,” Zidane said. “In the next few days we will talk about it. Soon we will see what will happen, not only with me but also with the club for next season.”
Had Zidane announced his departure, it would have taken a good deal of attention away from Atletico.
Instead, he praised Diego Simeone’s team for lasting the pace in the title race, ultimately finishing two points clear of Los Blancos and seven ahead of third-placed Barcelona.
“We must congratulate Atletico who deserve it, because the team at the top deserve it,” Zidane said in a post-game news conference.
“We have given everything on the field and I am responsible for everything. What the players want is to win.”
Madrid finished their LaLiga campaign on an 18-game unbeaten run, winning 13 and drawing five in that sequence to apply pressure on one-time runaway leaders Atletico.
That goes down as their best run without defeat in a single league season since Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid also strung together 18 unbeaten games in the 2013-14 campaign, winning 15 times.
Yet Madrid finish the season without a pot to their name, after an early Copa del Rey exit to Alcoyano, a Champions League semi-final loss to Chelsea, and a Supercopa de Espana last-four defeat to Athletic Bilbao.
“We have not won anything. We know what we have to achieve,” Zidane said. “The fans are the most important thing here. They have to be very proud of what the players have done. We have given everything.”
The 48-year-old Frenchman became the world’s most expensive footballer when he arrived at Madrid from Juventus in July 2001, and it might be a wrench to leave the club for a third time.
He has departed as a player and as a coach before, and he might not get another chance to return to the job he currently holds.