Real Madrid planning for Zinedine Zidane departure; Max Allegri, Raul on shortlist - sources

Real Madrid are considering Massimiliano Allegri and club legend Raul to replace Zinedine Zidane if the French coach decides to leave at the end of the season, sources have told ESPN.

Allegri, out of a job since leaving Juventus in 2019, and Raul, currently in charge of Madrid's B team, Castilla, are the best-placed candidates, but not the only names on the shortlist.

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Zidane -- who already quit the Madrid job once in 2018 -- has persistently refused to confirm that he'll see out his contract, which runs until 2022.

"There are moments when you have to stay, and others when you have to go," he hinted in a cryptic news conference on Saturday.

The radio station Onda Cero reported that Zidane told his players that he would not be carrying on as coach during a team talk ahead of their La Liga game with Sevilla last weekend.

Zidane called that "a lie" on Sunday, speaking after a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao kept Madrid in the title race.

"How am I going to say to the players that I'm leaving now?" he told Movistar. "We're fighting for the league, and I say that I'm going? No... I'd never say that to my players. Why would I say that? At the end of the season we'll see what happens... We can't constantly talk about my future, it isn't the most important thing."

Sources told ESPN that while the coach had raised the possibility of leaving at the end of the season, it was not left "very clear" to multiple players that a definitive decision had been made.

"I saw the news story that he'd said something to us in a talk the other day. I don't know," said Nacho Fernandez, who scored the only goal at San Mames. "The boss has a contract, he's with us all the way. It's a decision he'll take with the club, but we want him to stay."

However, sources say the feeling among the squad is that Zidane is likely to depart. The coach has not told the club whether he will be continuing, and executives expect to discuss his future at the end of the season.

Madrid would like Zidane to stay until 2022, but preparations are already underway in the event of a possible exit, according to sources. In addition to Allegri and Raul, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has also been discussed as a potential replacement.

President Florentino Perez has been a long-term admirer of Allegri, and his track record and experience in managing star players are seen as factors in his favour, while Raul has impressed while in charge of Castilla since 2019.

The sources added that Raul has attracted interest from Eintracht Frankfurt but is waiting on news of the Madrid job before making a decision.

"This is my home, where I want to be, where I feel like I belong ... I'm a club man, I'm working, I'm happy at my home, and I hope to continue," he said Sunday.

Club sources told ESPN that for now, nothing had changed -- "We'll see if it's confirmed," one source said -- and talks with Zidane will wait until the La Liga season ends next weekend.