Real Madrid have sacked Rafa Benitez and named Zinedine Zidane as his replacement.

The 32-time Spanish champions fell four points behind Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga after a 2-2 draw against Valencia on Sunday and Benitez was dismissed following a board meeting held on Monday afternoon.

Club legend Zidane, who currently manages Madrid’s ‘B’ team, has long been linked with the top job and will now take charge.

Benitez had struggled to win over supporters after replacing Carlo Ancelotti in the summer and Madrid could fall five points behind Barcelona if the defending champions win their game in hand.

Real cruised through their Champions League group, winning five of their six matches and scoring 19 goals, but suffered embarrassment in the Copa del Rey when they were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.

Benitez’s position came under particular scrutiny in November when Madrid suffered back-to-back defeats against Sevilla and Barcelona, the latter a 4-0 humbling at home to their greatest rivals.

The former Liverpool and Napoli manager enjoyed an 8-0 victory over Malmo in the Champions League and a 10-2 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano but defeat to Villarreal and the draw at Valencia has cost him his position.

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