Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane left Real Madrid after a trophyless season AFP / Glyn KIRK

Real Madrid CF is in danger of failing to defend multiple titles that they won last season, and manager Carlo Ancelotti is feeling the pressure. Should he decide to leave or if he is sacked by club president Florentino Perez, former Real Madrid player and manager Zinedine Zidane is being touted to make a shock comeback for a third stint.

In the past week and a half, Real Madrid have seen their season unravelling. They were riding the crest of a wave after winning the FIFA Club World Cup and then demolishing Liverpool 5-2 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 clash.

From there, things went into a freefall. Los Blancos were only able to secure a 1-1 draw during the Madrid Derby against city rivals Atletico Madrid. This gave FC Barcelona a 7-point advantage at the top of the league table. A week later, Real Madrid drew again against Real Betis, allowing Barcelona to open up a 9-point lead. This clearly puts their title defence at considerable risk.

Meanwhile, in between those two league matches, Real Madrid and Barcelona also faced each other in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals. Even though Los Blancos dominated possession, an own goal gave Barcelona a narrow 1-0 advantage as they head into the second leg.

All is not lost in La Liga and the Copa del Rey, but both competitions are hanging by a thread. According to Sport, Florentino Perez visited the dressing room and had a word with Ancelotti after the latest draw against Betis. The conversations were kept private, but everyone knows that Don Perez shows no mercy.

It is understood that he may already be looking at possible replacements for the Italian if he fails to arrest the slide moving forward. Zidane is reported to be one of the options despite having left the club on somewhat bitter terms back in 2021 after failing to win silverware that season.

If he returns, it will be Zidane's third spell in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu. He first took over in 2016-2018 and won three consecutive Champions League trophies among numerous other titles. He then left while on a high, in a year that also saw the departure of club top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

Zidane then returned at the end of the 2018-2019 season and stayed the next year before calling it quits after struggling to whip the club back to winning ways.

A lot has changed since then, and last season, Ancelotti led Real Madrid to wins in La Liga, the UEFA Champions League and the Supercopa de Espana. Subsequently, the club has also won the European Super Cup and Club World Cup trophies this season. They are also still in the running for a 15th Champions League title.

Nevertheless, the results over the past two weeks were enough to put Ancelotti's future in doubt despite having a contract until 2024.

Zidane was previously believed to be keen on taking over France, but Didier Deschamps has since renewed his contract with the national team. He was also linked with Paris Saint-Germain, but club representatives have denied making an offer.

Now, depending on how Ancelotti salvages the remainder of the season, the Frenchman might end up back in charge.

Apart from Zidane, legendary striker and now Real Madrid Castilla manager Raul Gonzalez is also being seen as a possible candidate. Elsewhere, former PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino is also being linked with the top job at the Bernabeu.