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MADRID – 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.