When managers take over midseason, it's not always clear what the expectations are. Sometimes, it's not even clear if the newly appointed boss is a permanent hire—for every Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, there's a Gary Neville at Valencia.
Hired to replace last summer's supremely awkward Rafael Benitez appointment, the Frenchman has found measured success on the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium touchline.
Overseeing 18 La Liga contests, Zidane has lost just one. Taking 47 points from a possible 54 under their new boss, Madrid have clawed their way to one point behind Barcelona and Atletico Madrid atop Spain's first division.
With two games remaining, any slip from the top two clubs—and victories against Valencia (H) and Deportivo La Coruna (A)—and Zidane would win the title. That alone would seal his tenure for next season, but banking on Luis Enrique and Diego Simeone collapsing at the finish line wouldn't be too wise.
Considering the challenge La Liga possesses, Madrid still has one massive fixture to parse: the 2016 UEFA Champions League final. After dispatching Manchester City in the semi-finals, a date with Atletico has been set for May 28 at Milan's San Siro.
Likely the bookmakers' favourites to beat Atleti, Real Madrid are by no means guaranteed to lift their 11th European title. Simeone's side eliminated Barcelona and Bayern Munich over 180-minute cup-ties, and they have beaten Real at the Bernabeu this season.
Zidane has improved his side, but without a trophy, he's leaving his managerial tenure in the hands of sporadic president Florentino Perez.
According to Spanish publication AS, Perez "has made his decision to retain [the Frenchman] on the Bernabeu bench for the 2016/17 season, according to a source," but it seems—more often than not—Real's president moves like the wind.
Zinedine Zidane: 3 months, 1 Champions league final.— Transfer Sources (@TransferSources) 4 May 2016
Arsene Wenger: 18 years, 1 Champions league final.
Is appearing in the 2016 Champions League final enough to secure the France legend's long-term tenure? That should be a massive storyline heading into the second Madrid derby for European supremacy in three seasons.
The closest thing to Real's current situation might be Chelsea in 2011/12. After sacking Andre Villas-Boas, owner Roman Abramovich (whose coaching trigger finger is akin to Perez's) hired former Blues legend Roberto Di Matteo. The Italian wasn't thought to be a permanent manager—just a stop-gap—but he had different ideas.
Winning the 2012 FA Cup final, then somehow beating Bayern Munich, in Munich, for the 2011/12 Champions League trophy, Abramovich was forced into making his interim manager his full-time manager. Ironically, Di Matteo was sacked the next season and replaced with Benitez, but it shows that winning the Champions League (and trophies in general) can alter would-be blueprints.
Zidane is far more intrinsically linked with Real Madrid than Di Matteo was with Chelsea, so Perez cannot treat the former superstar—and world's most expensive player—without the respect his name demands.
Can Real Madrid give an inexperienced manager millions of Euros to spend this summer?
Those questions must colour every discussion Perez has about his managerial future, but seeing his current boss lift the Champions League trophy would make the decision for him.
Just being at the San Siro, then losing—one would think—is still an excuse for an unpredictable man to do something, well, unpredictable.