Football: Zizou targets a trophy

While Zinedine Zidane has excellent playing credentials and is wildly popular at Real, he has limited coaching experience.
While Zinedine Zidane has excellent playing credentials and is wildly popular at Real, he has limited coaching experience.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Real icon promises entertaining football as Benitez gets chop after just 7 months

MADRID • Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane has vowed to manage the club his way and asked to be judged on results "regardless of what I did here as a player".

Real are in third place in La Liga, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two points behind eternal rivals Barcelona. They are also still in the Champions League, facing Roma in the last 16 next month.

And Zidane insisted at his first official press conference since taking over from the sacked Rafael Benitez that his aim was to win a trophy.

"This is a difficult but stimulating challenge, I want to take up the challenge and do my utmost to win titles," he told reporters at the Santiago Bernabeu yesterday.


"I'm at the best team in the world," added the Frenchman, who played for the club between 2001 and 2006. "Our objective is to win, we have two titles that we can win and we will try."

Real president Florentino Perez sacked Benitez after the Spaniard struggled for seven months to win over Madrid's fans and leading players. Supporters were unhappy with Benitez's defensive tactics, and Zidane has promised that his side will play entertaining football.

"It's always been important to see good football here and I want to continue that," said the 43-year-old, respected by Madrid's players and adored by their fans for his feats on the field, highlighted by his brilliant winner in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen.

"I want to play attacking, balanced football and nothing more."

His popularity and status as a club icon was evident when he took training for the first time yesterday.

Some 5,000 Real fans turned out at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium to cheer Zidane as he worked with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and other superstars.

All eyes will now be on whether Zidane has the temperament and tactical ability to gel Madrid's "galacticos" into a trophy-winning unit. Key players such as Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez often showed their disgust when substituted by Benitez.

Zidane is not known for his communication skills and had a fiery temperament on the field as a player. His career ended with an infamous headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy.

Spanish media already believe that Zidane - whose only previous coaching job was in charge of Castilla, the Real B team - has his work cut out because of his inexperience.

"The Frenchman is a football legend and a great figure of Madrid," wrote Marca, Spain's most read sports daily. "But his coaching experience is inversely proportional to his excellent footballer's experience - limited... and controversial."

El Pais daily also emphasised that Zidane, a three-time World Player of the Year and 1998 World Cup winner, was "a legend without coaching experience".

The Times' European football correspondent Gabriele Marcotti believes that Zidane's relationship with the dressing room will be key.

"As a player, he was the prototypical strong, silent type. He was introverted and taciturn, looked up to for his work rate and ability rather than loved for his leadership," he wrote in his column for the British newspaper.

"And that could be a problem in a role that is largely about communication. It is communication that is both outward - being the face of Real Madrid to the outside world - and inward, handling sensitive egos."

Zidane has the advantage of knowing the players well - he was Carlo Ancelotti's deputy in 2013 and 2014. And after learning from two of the best managers, Zidane is ready to put his personal stamp on Europe's most successful club.

"I've worked with (Jose) Mourinho and (Carlo) Ancelotti and had a lot of coaches as player, but you cannot copy another coach," he said.

"I have to do this the Zidane way."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Zizou targets a trophy'. Print Edition | Subscribe