Gareth Bale (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right). (Photo: Getty Images)

The three-time defending European champions Real Madrid received a shock on Thursday morning when manager Zinedine Zidane suddenly resigned from his post. 

"I love this club. What I think is that this team needs to continue winning but I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology," Zidane said (h/t BBC). "This is the right moment for all involved — for me, for the squad, for the club."

Given their success in the largest domestic competition in the world, the UEFA Champions League, it's a puzzling move for Zidane to leave, to say the least. 

However, it could be writing on the wall that things at Real Madrid are trending in the wrong direction. 

 

Just days after winning their third-straight Champions League trophy last Saturday against Liverpool, rumors began to swirl about the futures of two of the team's largest stars, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. 

Manchester United has been linked to both stars while PSG is also rumored to be putting together a mammoth offer for Ronaldo

The possibility of Ronaldo leaving centers around his contract and his relationship with Real Madrid owner Florentino Perez. Should the Portuguese international receive an offer not suiting to his liking, the probability of him walking obviously increases. 

For Bale though, it looked as though he had one foot out the door as he suddenly fell out of favor with Zidane within Madrid's lineup. Most notably, the Welshman was a reserve for the Champions League Final before coming on at the hour mark and scoring a pair of goals. 

That frustration, along with rumors that Madrid was interested in Eden Hazard or Neymar, had him eyeing a return to the Premier League, his preferred choice. Bale came up through the Southampton ranks (not in the English top flight at the time) before making his name in the Premier League with Tottenham. 

Both players' decisions to leave the Spanish giants though could be delayed until Real Madrid names a new manager. Per the Evening Standard, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is an early favorite of Perez to take over for Zidane, per the Evening Standard