'Zizou effect' sets real buzzing

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale (above) celebrating one of his goals with Cristiano Ronaldo during their match against Deportivo at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Bale, who scored a hat-trick in their 5-0 win, says he has no doubt that France legend Zidane
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale (above) celebrating one of his goals with Cristiano Ronaldo during their match against Deportivo at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Bale, who scored a hat-trick in their 5-0 win, says he has no doubt that France legend Zidane will be a really good manager as well.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
STILL ALONG WAY TO GO: "The key is the team’s attitude.Beyond that,we have to improve in many areas and we will do that.When you win a match, the coach can only be happy and I am happy. That’s it.’’ ZINEDINE ZIDANE (above), on winning his fir
STILL ALONG WAY TO GO: "The key is the team’s attitude.Beyond that,we have to improve in many areas and we will do that.When you win a match, the coach can only be happy and I am happy. That’s it.’’ ZINEDINE ZIDANE (above), on winning his first matchas Real Madrid head coach. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Despite a perfect start, Zidane is cautious and calls for more improvement

MADRID • Zinedine Zidane's triumphant start as Real Madrid manager brought excitement to the Bernabeu on Saturday and the 10-time European champions are hoping the "Zizou effect" can return the world's richest football club to winning ways.

The former Real and France midfielder, appointed after Rafael Benitez was sacked on Monday, watched his charges crush Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 in La Liga, with Gareth Bale scoring a hat-trick and Karim Benzema adding a double.

Zidane had insisted the "BBC" attacking trio of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo would start when fit, and he was true to his word. His first team sheet also saw him pick midfielder Isco ahead of James Rodriguez, a favourite of Real president Florentino Perez.

But it was Bale who took centre stage with his second treble in four games.

The Welshman was reported to be upset at Benitez's sacking after the Spaniard had given him a more central role in the team this season. Yet the forward - heavily linked with a summer move to Manchester United - simply let his feet do the talking.

STILL A LONG WAY TO GO

The key is the team's attitude. Beyond that, we have to improve in many areas and we will do that. When you win a match, the coach can only be happy and I am happy. That's it.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE, on winning his first match as Real Madrid head coach.

"I don't feel I need to make a statement," said the forward, who has scored 10 goals in his last seven games. "Everyone knows the player who Zidane was and I think there are no doubts he'll be a really good manager too.

"I have the same freedom with Zidane that I did with Benitez. I'm happy I scored those goals but the most important thing are the three points and that we won as a team."

At the other end of the pitch, Keylor Navas kept a clean sheet.

The Costa Rica international revealed Zidane's pre-game message to the players, suggesting that the Frenchman showed no signs of nerves despite some criticism over his lack of managerial experience.

"He told us to be relaxed, to put in our best effort and to enjoy ourselves," he told Marca.

"You always have to have confidence to do things well and to try to get everyone working in the best way possible. Zidane talks with confidence, as a manager has to talk."

Known as "Zizou" and a hero to the fans, Zidane was given a huge ovation when he walked out at the giant arena before kick-off and his old No. 5 shirt, put back on sale this week, was flying off the shelves at the club shop.

Dressed in a tight-fitting black suit, with a crisp white shirt and a thin black tie, the shaven-headed Zidane cut an elegant figure on the touchline.

While Deportivo are hardly the strongest opponents Real will face this season, there appears to be solid optimism the 43-year-old - whose only previous coaching role was with Madrid's feeder team Castilla in the Spanish third tier - can help the club triumph again.

"He is a man the fans are extremely fond of, a world football legend," former Real and Spain striker Emilio Butragueno told Spanish television. "For us, he is a very emblematic figure and the excitement among the fans was palpable, it was fantastic," added the club director.

"This is the path to follow and we hope Zidane can play a fundamental role over the coming months."

Saturday's win lifted Real within a point of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who were set to face Celta Vigo yesterday. Spanish and European champions Barcelona were a point clear at the top on Saturday with a game in hand on Real.

But Zidane is not getting carried away by the bright start. At his post-match news conference, he spoke of the need for improvement "across the board".

"The goal was to bring the ball out from the back and switch wings quickly," he said. "The key is the team's attitude. Beyond that, we have to improve in many areas and we will do that.

"When you win a match, the coach can only be happy and I am happy. That's it."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline ''Zizou effect' sets real buzzing'. Print Edition | Subscribe