Soccer

Rafa Benitez fired as Real Madrid coach, replaced by former player Zinedine Zidane

  • Real Madrid's head coach Rafael Benitez gestures to his players during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Valencia at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

    Real Madrid's head coach Rafael Benitez gestures to his players during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Valencia at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this March 26, 2015 file photo, former soccer player and current Real Madrid B team coach Zinedine Zidane waves to spectators prior to the international friendly soccer match between France and Brazil at the Stade de France, north of Paris, France. Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez announced Monday Jan. 4, 2016 that current coach Rafael Benitez has been fired and former player and Real Madrid’s B team coach Zinedine Zidane will take over. Benitez, hired seven months ago, has been under pressure since a demoralising 4-0 home loss to Barcelona in November. The team won seven of nine matches since the defeat at the Bernabeu, but fans continued to call for Benitez's departure. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

    FILE - In this March 26, 2015 file photo, former soccer player and current Real Madrid B team coach Zinedine Zidane waves to spectators prior to the international friendly soccer match between France and Brazil at the Stade de France, north of Paris, France. Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez announced Monday Jan. 4, 2016 that current coach Rafael Benitez has been fired and former player and Real Madrid’s B team coach Zinedine Zidane will take over. Benitez, hired seven months ago, has been under pressure since a demoralising 4-0 home loss to Barcelona in November. The team won seven of nine matches since the defeat at the Bernabeu, but fans continued to call for Benitez's departure. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)  (The Associated Press)

Real Madrid has fired coach Rafa Benitez after seven months and replaced him with former player Zinedine Zidane.

Club president Florentino Perez announced the decision at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Monday, a day after Madrid's 2-2 draw at Valencia deepened a crisis that started with an embarrassing 4-0 home loss to rival Barcelona in November.

Madrid won seven of nine matches since that demoralizing defeat but fans continued to demand the departure of Benitez, whose Liverpool side won the Champions League in 2005.

Real Madrid is third in the Spanish league, four points behind leader Atletico Madrid and two behind Barcelona.

France soccer great Zidane, who was Carlo Ancelotti's assistant in 2014 when Real Madrid won the Champions League, has been coaching Madrid's "B'' team in the third division.