No split allegiances for Zidane

Real Madrid's Isco shoots past Atletico Madrid 'keeper Jan Oblak, after he could only parry a Toni Kroos shot into the Spaniard's path. The away goal sealed Atletico's fourth straight exit at Real's hands.
Real Madrid's Isco shoots past Atletico Madrid 'keeper Jan Oblak, after he could only parry a Toni Kroos shot into the Spaniard's path. The away goal sealed Atletico's fourth straight exit at Real's hands.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Frenchman aims to become first to retain Champions League against former club Juve

MADRID • Zinedine Zidane insists he will have no divided loyalties after leading Real Madrid to a second consecutive Champions League final where they will meet his old club Juventus on June 3.

Real withstood a first-half onslaught from rivals Atletico Madrid to progress 4-2 on aggregate, despite losing 1-2 in their semi-final second leg on Wednesday.

Italian champions Juventus, whom Zidane left for a then world record fee when he first joined Real as a player in 2001, await.

"For sure it is special because it was a very important club for me as a player. It is a club that also gave me everything," he said.

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"Now, though, I am with Real Madrid, the club of my life and it will be a great final."

The Frenchman admitted ahead of December's last-16 draw that Juventus were the team he wanted to avoid due to his respect for Massimiliano Allegri's club. The Italian side eased past Monaco 4-1 on aggregate in the other semi-final.

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  • Zinedine Zidane is the first manager since former Inter Milan boss Helenio Herrera (1964-65) to reach two straight European finals.

"I can't do anything about it now," he added. "They have got to the final and deserve to be there, as do we."

Cristiano Ronaldo, whose first-leg hat-trick proved the difference, admitted that the Spanish giants are not favourites.

"Nothing is easy, we will fight until the end to win the Champions League," said the Portuguese forward. "I rate the final as 50-50."

Atletico had threatened an incredible comeback, a powerful header from Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann's penalty inside 16 minutes cutting Real's aggregate lead to a solitary goal. But Isco's away goal just before half-time left Atletico with too much to do to progress.

"We knew that with a goal we would kill them, we had more experience and we showed it," Ronaldo told Spanish radio station Cadena SER.

Despite the disappointment of bowing out to Real in the Champions League for the fourth straight season, Atletico boss Diego Simeone beamed with pride at his side's performance.

"I am happy and proud that once again we have shown why we are competing at the top level just behind Real Madrid and Barcelona," said the Argentinian. "The atmosphere was one of those magical moments in the Calderon that will live in people's memories forever."

Atletico were inspired by a sensational atmosphere on their last Champions League game at the Vicente Calderon before moving to the new 67,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano next season.

Real were without the injured Gareth Bale for both legs of the semi-final. However, Zidane is hopeful the Welshman will be fit for a homecoming final in Cardiff.

"At the moment Gareth is recovering... we have time before the final," he said. "I hope we will have him back before then, it is better that he plays a little bit."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'No split allegiances for Zidane'. Print Edition | Subscribe