Zi­dane breathes life into Real

Lesotho Times - - News -

MADRID — There is def­i­nitely some­thing dif­fer­ent about Real Madrid since Zine­dine Zi­dane (pic­tured ) took over.

Ob­vi­ously, it’s still too early to know whether he’ll suc­ceed in his first head-coach­ing job, but it’s al­ready clear that his ar­rival has breathed new life into the Span­ish gi­ant.

Just like that, there’s no more jeer­ing at the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu Sta­dium. Play­ers seem to have a new at­ti­tude. Crit­ics have stopped talk­ing about a cri­sis.

Putting a for­mer club idol in charge ap­par­ently has pro­duced the right re­sult.

Real Madrid routed De­portivo La Coruna 5-0 on Satur­day in its first game un­der the new coach. Al­though there was noth­ing un­usual about the vic­tory — any­thing other than a win wasn’t ex­pected — it was ob­vi­ous that the at­mos­phere at the Bern­abeu had changed.

“When a game is won the man­ager can only be happy,” Zi­dane said. “I am happy with our first game and with the three or four days that we had of train­ing ses­sions. What I liked most was the team’s at­ti­tude.”

The doubts that hung over the team when Rafa Ben­itez was in com­mand were not there any­more. Even be­fore the game started, there was a sense that things had im­proved. The con­fi­dence was back. Fans were smil­ing again.

“I was ab­so­lutely de­lighted with the fans, it was clear that they were right be­hind the team from be­gin­ning to end,” Zi­dane said. “There was a good at­mos­phere.”

Nearly two months af­ter an em­bar­rass­ing 4-0 loss to Barcelona at the Bern­abeu, spir­its were fi­nally high again at the club that calls it­self the best in the world. For a change, Florentino Perez had a peace­ful night at his pres­i­den­tial suite.

Real Madrid was in­con­sis­tent un­der Ben­itez, who strug­gled to get the team back on track fol­low­ing the de­feat to Barcelona and the em­bar­rass­ing elim­i­na­tion from the Copa del Rey for us­ing an il­leg­i­ble player. He was be­ing jeered at nearly ev­ery game at home, even in 8-0 and 10-2 wins, and set­backs in im­por­tant league games even­tu­ally led to his fir­ing af­ter only seven months in the job.

“Ev­ery­body knows that Zi­dane was a great player and I’m sure he’ll be the same as a man­ager,” said for­ward Gareth Bale, who scored a hat trick against De­portivo. “We’ve only trained a few times but we are pro­fes­sion­als and we work hard to try to win games and all of the ti­tles avail­able. We have to carry on the same way, like we were do­ing be­fore.”

Al­though the tested Jose Mour­inho was on the mar­ket, Perez took the pop­u­lar route and hired the largely in­ex­pe­ri­enced Zi­dane, the for­mer France great who thrived with the club as a player more than a decade ago. He was Car­los Ancelotti’s as­sis­tant when the club won its 10th Cham­pi­ons League, but his head-coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was lim­ited to Madrid’s B team in the third divi­sion.

“I am happy be­cause this is an­other chal­lenge for me,” the 43-year-old Zi­dane said. “It is im­por­tant to be here as a man­ager and what I want to do is en­joy it.”

He will have a week be­fore Madrid gets back on the field, against Sport­ing Gi­jon in the Span­ish league, again at home. The team is two points off pro­vi­sional Span­ish league leader Barcelona.

“The first game was re­ally good but it is the start and we have to keep go­ing,” Zi­dane said. “Real Madrid al­ways needs to win and we have to keep win­ning. We have to im­prove a lot of things and we are go­ing to do it. We have weeks to work and we are go­ing to im­prove, I am con­vinced of that.”

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