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
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