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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Mauricio Pochettino on Real Madrid's radar to replace Zinedine Zidane as manager

The Uefa Champions League winners beginning their search for a new coach after shock departure of man who guided them to three European Cups in a row

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly on Real Madrid's radar as a contender to replace Zinedine Zidane in charge of the Uefa Champions League winners. Andrew Couldridge / Action Images via Reuters
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly on Real Madrid's radar as a contender to replace Zinedine Zidane in charge of the Uefa Champions League winners. Andrew Couldridge / Action Images via Reuters

Real Madrid have started their search for Zinedine Zidane's replacement - but will face a challenge to lure Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino to the Bernabeu.

Less than a week after leading Real to Uefa Champions League glory for a third straight season with victory over Liverpool in Kiev, Zidane announced his shock departure.

Real president Florentino Perez maintained he had only heard of the head coach's decision to quit late on Wednesday, with Zidane declaring it was "time to go out at the top" at Thursday's hastily-convened press conference.

Following the shock announcement, attention swiftly turned to who would be the man charged with leading the European champions next season as they look to wrestle back domestic dominance.

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Pochettino agreed a new five-year contract with Tottenham last week, but the former Espanyol and Southampton manager is said to be on Real's shortlist.

Following another season of finishing in the top three of the Premier League, Tottenham - set to move back into a new redeveloped home stadium next season - remain determined to see Pochettino at the helm.

It is understood there is no buy-out clause in the terms of Pochettino's new deal and no verbal agreement with chairman Daniel Levy that the 46-year-old could leave should Real Madrid come calling.

Zidane was understood to be under contract at the Bernabeu until 2020.

Real must now start an unexpected recruitment process, with the World Cup on the horizon before embarking on pre-season preparations.

Perez, who sat alongside Zidane on Thursday afternoon, said: "This was a totally unexpected decision, Zidane informed me of his choice yesterday. I thank him for the work he has done."

As well as Pochettino, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Italian Maurizio Sarri, most recently of Napoli, have all been linked with the high-profile role, as has Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp.

Resolving the futures of Gareth Bale and star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will be priorities for the new manager.

Ronaldo joined the tributes, saying he was "proud" to have played for Zidane, while captain Sergio Ramos said his "legacy will never be erased."

It remains to be seen whether Marseille-born Zidane will opt to take a break from the game or pursue a fresh challenge immediately.

Vacancies at top European clubs are currently limited, but the fallout from this summer's World Cup in Russia might present a first international challenge to Zidane, who stepped up from managing the 'Castilla' B team to replace Rafael Benitez in January 2016.