Football: LaLiga win my best: Zidane

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is hoisted in the air by his players after a 2-0 win over Malaga sealed their 33rd La Liga crown, three points clear of rivals Barcelona.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is hoisted in the air by his players after a 2-0 win over Malaga sealed their 33rd La Liga crown, three points clear of rivals Barcelona.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

French legend hails Real's first league win in five years as better than his accolades as a player

MADRID • Zinedine Zidane claimed that winning LaLiga as Real Madrid's coach on Sunday surpasses his stellar achievements as a player and even lifting the Champions League in his debut season as coach last year.

Real claimed the Spanish football title for a 33rd time as Cristiano Ronaldo struck his 40th goal of the season and Karim Benzema slotted home early in the second half to secure a 2-0 win at Malaga.

Arch-rivals Barcelona fought back from two goals down to beat Eibar 4-2 on the final day of the season but the result could not stop Real from lifting the trophy as they finished three points ahead.

"It is the happiest day of my professional life by a distance," Zidane said after landing Real's first title in five years. "Right now I would like to stand up here and dance."

Zidane won the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League as one of the greatest players of his generation, but said the extra responsibility that comes with being coach made his achievements all the greater.

"As coach of Real Madrid you know what the expectations are," he said. "I have experienced it as a player and that is why I say it is the happiest day of my professional life because being a coach changes everything. I have won everything with this club, this shirt but to win LaLiga is the best of all."

Zidane's role in restoring Real to the top of Spanish football was hailed by Ronaldo as the Portuguese claimed just his second league winners' medal in eight seasons since coming to Madrid.

"He has managed things intelligently along with his assistants," said Ronaldo. "The proof is there, we have won a very difficult league against one of the best teams in the world in Barca and for me Zidane has done a phenomenal job."

Real can go on to win a first LaLiga and Champions League double for 59 years if they beat Juventus in the European final on June 3.

Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique admitted that inconsistency over the season cost them the title.

Barca took 14 points from 18 in their six games against Spain's other top sides Real, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. Real picked up just eight in the corresponding games.

The Catalan side, however, proved less reliable against supposedly weaker opposition, dropping points against Real Betis, Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo, Deportivo La Coruna, Alaves and Malaga.

Real took maximum points from those games.

"LaLiga is 38 games long and it rewards consistency. We were not consistent enough," Enrique said. "Especially earlier in the season at home and we have paid for that.

"We didn't depend on ourselves. We fought until the very end and now we congratulate the worthy champions."

Barca's supporters unveiled a huge banner before the game in tribute to the coach, who spent eight seasons with the club as a player, in his last league match in charge before taking a sabbatical.

Saturday's King's Cup final against Alaves is his only chance of silverware in his final season.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2017, with the headline 'Laliga win my best: Zidane'. Print Edition | Subscribe