Zinedine Zidane may not be a man of many words but he made the world sit up and take notice of his managerial ability after Real Madrid’s Champions League victory
There is an old saying in the world of football that a good player can never be a good manager. Every constant has an exception and here we finally have an exception to that saying in the form of Zinedine Zidane.
The most remarkable moments of Zidane’s career as a player were the times when he helped France win the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Euro Cup. He was a world-class player during his time, but right now it looks like he was simply meant to be a manager all along.
What he has managed to achieve within a year and a half at Real Madrid is astounding to even think of. They have become the first team to successfully defend the trophy since Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan managed to do so 27 years ago, which was even before it got re-branded as the Champions League.
Zidane’s appointment as Real Madrid manager was met with mixed reactions from both fans and critics alike. People were aware of his talent as a player, but how would he fare as the manager of one of the biggest Spanish clubs ever?
Doubts were raised, eyebrows were crinkled and several people wrote him off even before he began. His first couple of triumphs were even labelled ‘luck’ as people were waiting with bated breath to watch him fail.
However, the prolific Frenchman gave a staggering response as Real Madrid played on field and that shattered every shred of doubt anyone harboured.
Los Blancos have spared no title since Zidane took charge – they have won two European Cups, the European Super Cup, the Club World Cup and also managed to win the league title after five years. They waited 59 years to win a league and European Cup double, and now that day has dawned bright for them.
In fact, big names in the managerial world like Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson share a record of two European Cups with Zinedine Zidane now.
At this point, it might seem like they have achieved everything in such a short period of time but with the way things are progressing, Zidane is just getting started. Be it the way he manages to extract the best out of his players or his sheer tactical genius on the field, the Frenchman has proven his capabilities.
Real Madrid’s arch-rivals Barcelona previously held the record for having a 39-game unbeaten run between October 2015 and March 2016 which was hailed as legendary, but then came Zinedine Zidane with his revamped Los Blancos squad and they broke that record with their astonishing 40-game stretch unbeaten.
As far as goals are concerned, Real Madrid broke records there as well. They became the first club to reach 500 Champions League goals with the first goal in that final against Juventus. Also, they have scored at least one goal in every match this season, ergo enjoying a 100 percent goal-scoring run.
What makes his journey even more inspirational is how he has managed to break some of Real Madrid’s traditions and yet come out on top. For example, he has made changes in their attack in a way to accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo in the best way without compromising on his form.
Zidane took over Real Madrid at a point when the Portuguese superstar was struggling to recover from an injury. Even after he returned, he was merely a shadow of his former self which led to critics suggesting that perhaps it was time for Ronaldo to hang his boots up and bid adieu sometime soon.
The mark of a good manager is his flexibility in dealing with such problems and Zidane did exactly that. Ronaldo’s age was bound to show up as a factor sooner or later and Zidane understood that. He rested the superstar striker every now and then – something which became more frequent as the season progressed.
That did pay off since Ronaldo returned stronger than ever in the crucial games he did play. In fact, he scored 14 goals in his last nine games across competitions but that number will go up to 16 now after he netted two brilliant goals against Juventus in the final.
When it comes to that game in particular, Zinedine Zidane managed to outclass a team comprising of some of the strongest defenders and their manager Massimiliano Allegri – a person who is also known as a tactical genius.
Real Madrid have also been known to chase the idea of creating a team full of the best players,. While that may seem like an unusual approach, Zidane chose to create a squad that performs together and did not rely on the Galacticos to do that.
He gave chances to youngsters like Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez to feature in the first team and that is something that has been unheard of at the club for years now.
Incidentally, these younger and lesser-known players ended up being key figures especially towards the end of the season. This also helped him with player rotation to cope with all commitments.
Zidane has built an empathetic and encouraging environment at Santiago Bernabeu and is very analytical of every move. The best example of that would be the treatment of Luka Modric. Zidane’s predecessor Rafa Benítez tried to stop Modric from passing with the outside of the boot, but Zidane gave him the space to play his natural game.
Indeed this is not the end, this is just a very bright start for Real Madrid in the Zidane era. Expectations will skyrocket from the club and the manager after this point, but as long as Zidane is boss, the team is in the best hands.