FOR Zinedine Zidane, the end is nigh.
No matter what happens, he will leave the Bernabeu at the end of the season — but the manner of his departure will be determined in the double-header against Paris Saint-Germain.
His 126 matches in charge incredibly put him seventh on the list of the club's longest-serving bosses.
Real Madrid are not a club which go through a transitional phase. Fans demand constant success and, failure to achieve that, results in the manager getting the axe.
Zidane is gone at the end of the season. But will it be off his own accord, or will he be pushed?
Here, he has the opportunity to manage his reputation for when he leaves the club.
This is the biggest challenge to his fledgling managerial career. When he is free, there won't necessarily be a queue of big clubs knocking on his door.
He isn't a Pep Guardiola. Despite the two sharing a similar path into top level management, Zidane hasn't changed the face of football in the way the former Barcelona boss did.
Managers' reputations are built on a game-by-game basis at the Real Madrid, and back-to-back Champions League titles mean nothing once the new season kicks off.
Zidane has managed the same group of players to two Champions League successes — and victory in La Liga.
His strength appeared to be in managing his players and rotating at the right time.
But that is exactly what is costing Real Madrid this season.
For the first time in his managerial career, he is being tested. His players are struggling for form and Zidane appears incapable of picking them up.
He is sticking with the same core, despite their below-par performances, and is unwilling to use the full extent of his squad.
Summer signings Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernandez have barely seen any action — despite arriving as seemingly the future of Spanish football.
Zidane now needs to prove to potential suitors that he can manage players, and not just oversee success.
Longest-serving Real Madrid managers
Miguel Munoz: 1960-1974 (595 matches)
Vicente del Bosque: 1999-2003 (233)
Jose Mourinho: 2010-2013 (178)
Leo Beenhakker: 1986-89 (169)
Vujadin Boskov: 1979-82 (139)
Miljan Miljanic: 1974-77 (134)
Zinedine Zidane: 2016-present (126)
Carlo Ancelotti: 2013-2015 (119)
Francisco Bau: 1934-41 (118)
Alfredo Di Stefano: 1982-1984 (108)
Leading this Real Madrid team to Champions League success should not be seen as a monumental achievement, because it is packed with many of the best players in world football.
But leading this Real Madrid team to Champions League success from this current predicament would allow Zidane the opportunity to walk into any job.
But he wouldn't even need to win the entire competition to repair the damage done to his reputation — he may be OK to just make the quarter-finals.
PSG are rampant. They boast the most fearsome attack in world football and are desperate to earn that one victory against a major powerhouse which would help them overcome that mental hurdle.
They feel this is their time. They sense a weakness in their opponents.
A win for Real Madrid would save their season, and categorically spell the end for Unai Emery at PSG — which would open up the door for Zidane to replace him.
And soon enough, he could be a title winner in two of Europe's top five leagues, and then clubs will start to for a queue for his services.