Zidane’s right man
Figo says former colleague has done ‘amazing job’ despite setbacks
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.