Di­vided loy­alty will not be an is­sue for Zi­dane’s Ju­ven­tus reunion

New Straits Times - - Sport -

ZINE­DINE Zi­dane in­sists he will have no di­vided loy­al­ties af­ter lead­ing Real Madrid to a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal where they will meet his old club Ju­ven­tus on June 3.

Real with­stood a first-half on­slaught from lo­cal ri­vals Atletico Madrid to progress 4-2 on ag­gre­gate de­spite los­ing 2-1 in their semi-fi­nal, sec­ond leg on Wed­nes­day.

Ital­ian cham­pi­ons Ju­ven­tus await, who Zi­dane left for a then world record fee when he first joined Real as a player in 2001.

“For sure it is spe­cial be­cause it was a very im­por­tant club for me as a player. It is a club that also gave me ev­ery­thing,” said Zi­dane.

“Now, though, I am with Real Madrid, the club of my life and it will be a great fi­nal.”

Zi­dane ad­mit­ted ahead of De­cem­ber’s last 16 draw that Ju­ven­tus were the team he wanted to avoid due to his re­spect for Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri’s side, who eased past Monaco 4-1 on ag­gre­gate in the other semi-fi­nal

“I can’t do any­thing about it now,” added Zi­dane.

“They have got to the fi­nal and de­serve to be there, as do we.”

Ul­ti­mately, Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s first leg hat-trick proved the dif­fer­ence as for the fourth straight sea­son Real elim­i­nated Atletico from the Cham­pi­ons League.

Atletico had threat­ened an in­cred­i­ble come­back, Saul Niguez’s pow­er­ful header and An­toine Griez­mann’s penalty in­side 16 min­utes cutting Real’s ag­gre­gate lead to a soli­tary goal.

How­ever, Isco’s away goal just be­fore half-time set­tled Real’s nerves and left Atletico with too much to do to progress.

“We knew they would start very strongly,” said Ron­aldo.

“They had the luck to score two goals but we know that if we scored that would kill them.

“They played well, but we have more ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Real can now make his­tory by be­com­ing the first side to re­tain the tro­phy in the Cham­pi­ons League era.

How­ever, Zi­dane pre­ferred to high­light the strength of his squad rather than his own role in a re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful run since he took his first se­nior man­age­rial job 17 months ago.

“I am de­lighted. I am the coach which means I am do­ing some­thing right, but ev­ery­one in this squad is do­ing a phe­nom­e­nal job.

“The squad should get the credit be­cause it is they who are play­ing, run­ning, fight­ing on the field.”

Real were with­out the in­jured Gareth Bale for both legs of the semi-fi­nal.

How­ever, Zi­dane is hope­ful the Welsh­man could be fit for a home­com­ing fi­nal in Cardiff.

“At the mo­ment Gareth is re­cov­er­ing ... we have time be­fore the fi­nal.

“I hope we will have him back be­fore then, it is bet­ter that he plays a lit­tle bit.” AFP


Real Madrid man­ager Zine­dine Zi­dane (left) and Atletico Madrid coach Diego Sime­one ges­ture on the side­line dur­ing their Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nal match Wed­nes­day.

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