Rafael Benitez
Rafa Benitez had been under intense scrutiny since his very first day at Real MadridGetty

Real Madrid have sacked manager Rafa Benitez, with the 2-2 draw against Valencia on 3 January being his last match in charge. The former Liverpool and Chelsea boss leaves the club just seven months after being appointed to replace Carlo Ancelotti.

Los Blancos have confirmed club icon Zinedine Zidane will replace the Spaniard until the end of the campaign, after having been in charge of Real's B-team since the summer of 2014. The France legend previously worked as Ancelotti's assistant during the 2013-2014 season, leading the club to both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey crowns. He also enjoyed a successful five spell as Real Madrid player between 2001 and 2006, winning the Champions League in his debut season at the Santiago Bernabeu, as well one La Liga title.

"The board has taken a difficult decision, especially for me, to sack Rafa Benítez, a great professional and a magnificent person," club president Florentino Perez told a press conference.

Zidane said: "I thank the club and the president for giving me the opportunity to train the club. It's the best club in the world and the best fanbase.

"I want to do my very best to ensure the club has a trophy at the end of the season. Tomorrow is when the work starts. It's an emotional day, even more emotional than the day I signed for the club."

Perez had previously been forced to call a press conference in November to give the vote of confidence to Benitez, following a humiliating 4-0 home defeat to Barcelona.

"Following a meeting with the club board we want to state that the Real Madrid manager, Rafa Benitez, has our full support and confidence," Perez said on 23 November.

The president gave his support to the manager once again before Christmas following defeat to Villarreal, claiming he was the right man to turn around the fortunes of the club despite reports in Spain that the club was considering both Zidane and Jose Mourinho as options to replace him imminently.

But the draw against Valencia seems to have forced Real Madrid to make the drastic decision.

Los Blancos have qualified for the Champions League last 16 as group leaders and are just four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table. However, Benitez has failed to win against any of Spain's bigger teams this season, drawing with Atletico Madrid and Valencia in the opening half of the campaign while losing to Sevilla, Villarreal and Barcelona.

Benitez, furthermore, has been under scrutiny by fans and media since he took charge at the club due to his defensive approach to the game. Real were then eliminated from the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player and according to reports Benitez had fallen out with a number of first-team stars.