Zi­zou - a se­rial win­ner on the pitch, will he do the same off it?

He’s won ev­ery­thing on the pitch, now Zi­dane wants to do it all again off it

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE -

He was al­ready one of the great­est play­ers to have ever laced up a pair of boots, but as it turns out, Zine­dine Zi­dane is equally adept on the touch­line.

Less than five months af­ter tak­ing over a side fal­ter­ing un­der Rafa Ben­itez, Zi­dane has de­liv­ered an 11th Euro­pean Cup for Real Madrid and be­come just the seventh man in his­tory to win the tour­na­ment as a player and a man­ager.

He joins an il­lus­tri­ous list that be­gun with Miguel Munoz and has gone on to in­clude Gio­vanni Tra­p­at­toni, Jo­han Cruyff, Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Ri­jkaard and Pep Guardi­ola.

“When you have play­ers of this cal­i­bre you can re­ally achieve a lot,” said Zi­dane. “It’s pos­i­tivism. Is that how you say it? I be­lieve a lot in work. We have the qual­ity. Work is more im­por­tant. That’s what we did. We all did a good job.”

Real’s 5-3 penalty shoot-out win over city ri­vals Atletico Madrid in a Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal that fin­ished 1-1 af­ter ex­tra time brought Zi­dane back to the pin­na­cle of the game.

Hav­ing led France to World Cup and Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship vic­to­ries, Zi­dane also scored with a re­mark­able left-foot vol­ley from the edge of the area to give Real Madrid their ninth Euro­pean ti­tle in the 2002 fi­nal against Bayer Lev­erkusen.

He also won the tour­na­ment as an as­sis­tant coach to Carlo Ancelotti two years ago - also against Atletico.

The achieve­ment was so great that Madrid pres­i­dent Florentino Perez even went so far as to com­pare Zi­dane to the club’s leg­endary player Al­fredo Di Ste­fano, who led the team to five con­sec­u­tive Euro­pean ti­tles from 1956-60.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the pres­i­dent’s words. But Di Ste­fano is Di Ste­fano. Let’s not kid our­selves,” said Zi­dane. “I’m happy be­cause I’m a part of this great club for a long time now.

“First as a player, then as as­sis­tant coach and now head coach. I re­ally feel proud to be part of this big home.

“It’s the team of my life. It’s the club that has made me the big­gest in ev­ery­thing. It was and it will al­ways be a great club. To be a part of this great club is some­thing very spe­cial.”

Af­ter re­plac­ing Ben­itez in Jan­uary, Zi­dane put his im­print on the squad by favour­ing the re­li­able Brazil­ian mid­fielder Casemiro over the more for­ward-think­ing James Ro­driguez.

Madrid fin­ished the sea­son by win­ning 15 of their last 17 matches and won their last 12 league games to fin­ish only one point be­hind league cham­pi­ons Barcelona.

“Since Zi­zou ar­rived things changed a lot. In the dress­ing room we were more united,” said Madrid cap­tain Ser­gio Ramos, who scored the open­ing goal. “We had good times with Ben­itez, too. And bad times. But things are al­ways more fun when you win.”

Zi­dane is also just start­ing out on his coach­ing ca­reer, but Atletico boss Diego Sime­one feels he is in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion hav­ing been able to land the top job at Madrid.

“He had the for­tune to coach one of the three best teams in the world - be­tween Real Madrid, Bay­ern, Barcelona,” said Sime­one. “It’s al­ways a priv­i­lege to be a cham­pion.”

While Sime­one has built a team in his own im­age - a side that ha­rasses their op­po­nents and is de­fen­sively sound - Zi­dane is still de­vel­op­ing his coach­ing style.

In con­trast to Sime­one’s an­i­mated an­tics on the side­line, Zi­dane of­ten just ob­serves his team with his hands in his pock­ets.

He is re­as­sur­ingly calm and per­haps most im­por­tantly, has com­manded the re­spect of the big egos that fill the Madrid dress­ing room.

“It went our way but it could have gone ei­ther way,” added Zi­dane. “[Sime­one] is a great coach and he has shown this through­out his ca­reer.”

Zi­dane showed through­out his play­ing ca­reer that he de­serves to be recog­nised as one of the great­est to play the game - now he will hope to earn the same re­spect as a coach. He has cer­tainly started in the best pos­si­ble fash­ion.

“It’s the team of my life. It’s the club that has made me the big­gest in ev­ery­thing.” – ZINE­DINE ZI­DANE

HANDS ON THE TRO­PHY: Zine­dine Zi­dane be­came the seventh per­son to win the Cham­pi­ons League as both a player and a man­ager

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