Real Madrid have reportedly identified Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino as their number one choice to replace Zinedine Zidane.
The Frenchman’s exit from the Spanish capital was confirmed on Thursday morning, sparking mass debate over who his successor could be.
The news comes at a particularly delicate time in the managerial merry-go-round amongst elite football clubs, with Antonio Conte leaving his post at Italian champions Inter Milan on Wednesday.
Furthermore, there is growing speculation Juventus will sack boss Andrea Pirlo and are on the verge of re-appointing Massimiliano Allegri – who had previously been tipped to replace Zidane in the Spanish capital.
The Argentine’s successor at the north London club, Jose Mourinho, was dismissed last month and the club are currently trying to appoint his permanent successor.
Pochettino’s contract in Paris still has a further year left to run, with the option for another season, and it is unlikely the club would allow his departure without resistance.
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However, the latest report from Spain highlights that coaching Madrid would be a ‘dream’ for Pochettino and he believes this is a ‘golden opportunity which he cannot miss’.
It is claimed that contact has already been made, with separate conversations planned with the coach and then with PSG, who missed out on this season’s Ligue 1 title.
Madrid are said to have drawn up a three-man shortlist to replace Zidane, with Pochettino the club’s preference, and the club will look to move swiftly.
The club’s Castilla team manager and legendary former striker Raul Gonzalez is also an option, as is Conte – who departed Inter on Wednesday despite guiding them to a first Serie A title in 11 years earlier this month.
This leaves many European giants and coaches in limbo, with the state of play still unclear and each potential appointment directly impacting the movements of other clubs.
Real Madrid’s interest in Pochettino is likely to come as a blow to Spurs, who were claimed to be lining up a bold approach to re-appoint their former boss this summer.
Pochettino is a native Spanish speaker and has direct experience of managing in La Liga thanks to his tenure at Espanyol, so a return to the nation could be a logical step.
It is not the first occasion when Madrid have pursued a move for the former Southampton boss, as he was also their preferred target to succeed Zidane in the summer of 2018, after the Frenchman departed for the first time
However, Pochettino’s position at Spurs was so secure that a move was prohibitive and the club eventually moved for Julen Lopetegui, who was fired after less than four months at the helm.