Real Madrid have reappointed Zinedine Zidane as manager just 10 months after he walked away from the club having won three straight Champions Leagues.
Jose Mourinho came close to landing the job of replacing Santiago Solari but fears of a dressing room revolt at his reappointment saw Madrid redouble their efforts to convince Zidane to return.
The decision is bad news for Gareth Bale whose relationship with Zidane was almost non-existent towards the end of the 46-year-old’s reign at the club.
Zidane quit Madrid last summer unhappy at plans to sell Cristiano Ronaldo and not replace him.
The club’s awful season has totally vindicated his decision to walk away and he will be given money to spend this summer.
That could mean a £100m bid for one of his long-term favourites Eden Hazard, although Madrid are aware Chelsea will only sell if an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport allows them to postpone their transfer ban.
When Real Madrid president Florentino Perez first asked Zidane to come back to the club his overtures were rejected and Mourinho became the leading candidate to succeed Solari.
Mourinho had been on a media mission to make it clear he would love a return to the club where he won La Liga in 2012.
A television channel in Madrid, ‘Telemadrid’, even announced last Thursday that Mourinho would take charge with immediate effect.
Sportsmail consulted sources close to the club on Sunday night and was told everything was set for Mourinho’s reappointment but that Perez had still not ‘pressed the button’, and was harbouring doubts over what effect re-hiring Mourinho would have on a dressing room still bearing the scars of his last period in charge.
He had made a second attempt to bring back Zidane offering greater concessions and complete freedom to build a new team.
The French coach accepted that offer on Monday morning and last night signed for the rest of this season and three more years on a deal that is believed to be on a par with the £17m net per season proposed for Mourinho.
Zidane still lives in Madrid close to the club’s training ground with his wife Veronique Fernandez. His youngest sons Theo and Elyaz, 16 and 13, are in the club’s youth system and elder son Luca is the team’s third choice goalkeeper.
His ties to Madrid had always made Chelsea’s chances of bringing him to London slim.
Chelsea’s Hazard could now be his No 1 target as he looks to make changes to the first team squad that could see Bale further marginalised.
The two barely spoke at the end of Zidane’s final season at the club and Bale was one of the few Real Madrid players who do not make a public ‘goodbye and good luck’ message to him when he left last summer.
Zidane is not known for holding grudges but Bale, who has a €15m-a-season contract until 2022 that makes a return to England aged 29 difficult, accepts this appointment does not aid his cause at the Bernabeu.