Zinedine Zidane has laughed off suggestions that he is poised to quit Real Madrid this summer but fuelled speculation about his future by saying: “There are moments when you have to stay and others when you have to go.”
Zidane, whose contract at the club runs until 2022, has faced weekly questioning about his plans for next season as the La Liga title race nears its conclusion with Madrid two points behind leaders Atletico.
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“I’m sorry, I know what I say is boring, but it’s true, I don’t know what will happen,” Zidane said in a news conference on Saturday. “I’m here. Tomorrow we play. Then we have one game left. After that, anything could happen, because this is Real Madrid. I don’t look at the past or future, it’s the present.”
Madrid visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night, hoping that rivals Atletico will slip up as they host Osasuna at the same time, in the penultimate round of La Liga fixtures.
Zidane has a track record for surprise departures, resigning as Madrid coach in May 2018 after they had won three Champions Leagues in a row — before returning 10 months later — and retiring as a player in 2006 when he still had a year left on his deal at the Bernabeu.
“You talk about me leaving in 2006 and as coach [in 2018] and you might think I walk away from responsibility, or I leave when things get complicated, but no, never,” Zidane said. “What I do is give everything, to the end, and then the moment comes to change, not just for me, for the good of the players too.”
“I don’t leave because it’s easy,” he added. “No, there are moments when you have to stay, and others when it’s finished and you have to go, but not just for me, for everyone.”
Zidane said that his passion for the job remains undimmed — saying he “gets emotional” watching his players in training — and described his relationship with the dressing room as one of “mutual respect.”
He also added that some players have been unhappy at being left out of the team, after denying a training ground row with Marcelo in midweek.
“Yes, that will always happen, I can understand it,” he said. “All players want to play, the bigger names get annoyed when they don’t play. I have to manage 25 players. Players who go on to become coaches will have to do it too, one day. The most important thing is respecting the players, and I’ve always done it.”
Midfielder Toni Kroos will miss the game in Bilbao as he is in isolation after coming into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, while defenders Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal, Ferland Mendy and Lucas Vazquez are all out injured.