Zi­dane’s right man

Figo says for­mer col­league has done ‘amaz­ing job’ de­spite set­backs

Sport360 - - La Liga - By Matthew Jones @Mat­tJones360 mat­tjones@sport360.com

Luis Figo has re­futed sug­ges­tions for­mer team-mate Zine­dine Zi­dane is un­der pres­sure at Real Madrid, and in­sists hard work is how he and the club will emerge from a test­ing time that sees them trail run­away lead­ers Barcelona in La Liga.

The Blau­grana are nine points clear of Atletico Madrid in sec­ond, while Zi­dane’s reign­ing cham­pi­ons are fourth, a gar­gan­tuan 16 points separat­ing the two, fierce ri­vals.

Los Blan­cos do have a game in hand, al­though they face a stern test when they wel­come sixth-placed Vil­lar­real – just four points be­hind them in the ta­ble – this evening.

And de­spite a test­ing start to Real’s ti­tle de­fence, Figo claims his friend will not be feel­ing the pres­sure – de­spite re­ports in Spain on Thurs­day claim­ing pres­i­dent Florentino Perez has al­ready de­cided to sack Zi­dane at the end of the sea­son and that the club are in talks to re­place him with Ger­many coach Joachim Low.

“To be a coach you are al­ways un­der pres­sure, more when you are in a club like Madrid,” said Figo, talk­ing at Yas Links Golf Club in Abu Dhabi yes­ter­day where he is play­ing in the Abu Dhabi In­vi­ta­tional.

The Por­tuguese icon added that al­though re­tain­ing their ti­tle seems re­mote, Real and Zi­dane will also have other tar­gets, like the Cham­pi­ons League – where they face Paris

in a mouth­wa­ter­ing last 16 clash next month. “Of course the league is more dif­fi­cult be­cause of the dis­tance in the points be­tween them and Barcelona, it is big. But they have an­other goal so they have to con­tinue to work,” he said.

Los Blan­cos have al­ready lost three times in 17 games – Barca are un­beaten – in stark con­trast to a stel­lar 2017 which saw Madrid sweep up a record five tro­phies. La Liga, the Cham­pi­ons League, Span­ish Su­per Cup, UEFA Su­per Cup and FIFA Club World Cup have all been claimed un­der Zi­dane, but they have failed to re­cover from a woe­ful start to 2017/18.

Nev­er­the­less, Figo – who fa­mously switched the Camp Nou for the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu in 2000 where he played along­side France mae­stro Zi­dane for four years – claims his fel­low for­mer Galac­tico has done an “amaz­ing ” job.

“I think he is do­ing amaz­ing, even in this last few months,” added the 45-year-old.

“The club has had some neg­a­tive re­sults but that doesn’t mean he’s do­ing bad. There are al­ways ups and downs through­out the sea­son and I hope Real Madrid con­tinue to fight for the goals they have this sea­son.”

Old friends: Luis Figo and Zine­dine Zi­dane played with each other dur­ing Real’s ‘Galac­ti­cos’ era in the early 2000s.

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