Rafael Benitez
Rafael Benitez, 55, was sacked as head coach of Real Madrid after just seven months in chargeReuters

Former Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has questioned his old club's decision to dispense with the services of Rafael Benitez midway through the season.

The 55-year-old Spaniard, who guided Real to the Champions League knockout stage and third place in the La Liga table during his seven-month reign at the Santiago Bernabeu, was fired by the club's president Florentino Perez after the 2-2 draw with Valencia on 3 January.

He was replaced by Real legend Zinedine Zidane, whose first game in charge of the club ended in a 5-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on 9 January.

"After many games this season, Real Madrid are still fighting for titles in La Liga and the Champions League, but the president Florentino Perez decided to say goodbye to Benitez,"Ancelotti, who masterminded the Spanish giants' landmark 10th European Cup win in 2014, was quoted as saying by ESPN.

"I know the job of a coach is always about getting results. I also know our work is subject to debate, but this time I really cannot understand the decision. It's only halfway through the season."

Zidane backing

Ex-AC Milan and Chelsea boss Ancelotti won the Copa del Rey and the Champions League during his first season at Real in 2013/14, but was sacked after failing to win a major trophy in the following season. The 56-year-old backed his former assistant Zidane to succeed at management, saying he had the "sufficient capacity" to lead a club of Real's magnitude.

Zinedine Zidane & Rafael Benitez
Zinedine Zidane (left) was as assistant coach under Carlo Ancelotti at Real MadridReuters

"Zidane is the fifth coach of Real since 2009, and there are questions that need to be raised," Ancelotti stated.

"Is it always the coach's fault? Everyone can draw their own conclusions. But without doubt, Zidane has the sufficient capacity to lead Real Madrid. I sincerely wish him the best."

Real are four points behind city rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of the La Liga table after 19 matches and will face Serie A side Roma in the Champions League round of 16.