The first and most obvious reason is the drive to leave on a high. Rather than being fired after an unsuccessful season, Zidane has chosen to leave the reins after 3 consecutive Champions League titles. In dire contrast to his fellow Frenchman, Arsene Wenger who, many believe, overstayed his welcome at Arsenal by quite some distance, the Real Madrid manager has made sure he leaves after enjoying what was an above average 2017-18 season to accompany a trophy-laden 2016-17 season. Not much to complain on this front for sure, because Zidane leaves to a scene of humongous support and in numerous accolades, with his head held high, rather than to jeers, whistles, and backlash.
The second reason is Zidane’s unwillingness to make big money signings. Now, this definitely is not a major reason and certainly sounds negative, but it is a fact that underlines the decision. Over the 3 seasons, Zidane chose to put his trust in Real’s existing team and gave more chances to youngsters such as Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez, who grabbed the opportunities given to them with both hands, allowing the Frenchman to breathe easy. Their success meant Zidane and Real’s management did not see the need to purchase new players, but his final season in charge showed it was a move in the wrong direction. While it has always been Real’s motto to make big-money signings that would improve their team set-up and provide them with more options, their decision to not do it in the last 3 seasons, coupled with an ageing squad and Barcelona’s extraordinary domestic form under Ernesto Valverde meant the team yet again failed to perform in the League and Copa Del Rey in 2017-18. Any future signings would definitely take time to adapt to Real’s dynamic team set-up and sensing this, Zidane chose to maintain a similar one in all 3 seasons, with only minor changes. This meant the squad still heavily relied on Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal-rush to push them through, but the Portuguese’s poor run for the first half of the season meant the team fell too far behind Barca in the League and bowed out meekly in the Copa. While his second-half run, along with some brilliant team effort saw them through to yet another Champions League title, it would be fair to say Zidane’s decision to leave the reins when the support was on the threshold of eroding, rather than after completely losing it, was correct in more ways than one.
Finally, the drop in overall performance by the team in the 2017-18 season could have also prompted the decision. In 62 games during the course of the season, Real notched up just 39 wins with a win percentage of 63. Their record in the League was even worse, with just 22 wins in 38 games at 57.89%. It was a massive drop in performance compared to 29 wins at 76.32% in the League in 2016-17, enough to win them a title, while they managed 28 wins at 73.68% in the League in 2015-16. Though stats don’t always reveal the entire story, this is a significant fall for a team of Real Madrid’s quality and caliber. The number of goals also saw a drop, as Real racked up just 148 goals in 62 games in 2017-18, in contrast to 173 in 60 games in 2016-17 and 141 in just 52 games in 2015-16. A lot of it had to do with Ronaldo’s poor form in front of goal, Karim Benzema’s prolonged inconsistency upfront and Gareth Bale’s injury problems. Though Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez did provide some extra firepower, it was never going to be enough to pull the team through in a competitive league. The defense too let in more goals in Zidane’s final season than in his first. While the 2015-16 season saw the team concede 34 goals in 38 League fixtures, the team let in 44 goals in the League in 2017-18. In such a scenario, a manager would either be adventurous and look to improve the team in the next season or choose to leave the reins to let another manage take the team forward in the right direction. Zidane chose the latter and it’s fair to say he took the right step in both his and Real Madrid’s interest.