No secret to success, just lots of hard work: Zidane

Real Madrid's coach Zinedine Zidane poses with the trophy after winning the Uefa Champions League final football match at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, on May 26, 2018.
Real Madrid's coach Zinedine Zidane poses with the trophy after winning the Uefa Champions League final football match at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, on May 26, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

KIEV • He was one of the all-time greats as a player, and Zinedine Zidane now merits consideration as one of the game's great managers after making "crazy" history with Real Madrid in Saturday's Champions League final.

Real's 3-1 win over Liverpool on a dramatic evening in Kiev allowed Zidane to become the first coach to win the Champions League in three consecutive seasons, with the Spanish giants becoming the first team to achieve that feat in more than 40 years.

"Tonight is certainly a historic moment," he told beIN Sports. "With a team like this, we can go far but to win three of them, it's something crazy to experience that."

Less than 21/2 years after being promoted from his position as coach of Real's second team to his first managerial role at the highest level, the Frenchman has become only the third coach in the history to lift the European Cup three times.

Leaving behind contemporaries Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, Zidane has now equalled former Liverpool manager Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti, the man he used to serve as an assistant.

"I need to congratulate the players as it is not at all easy what they are doing," Zidane said after the game in the Ukrainian capital.

The Frenchman was reluctant to take too much of the credit after seeing his side secure their fourth Champions League title in five seasons, and the 13th in the club's long love affair with the European football's showpiece tournament.

The 45-year-old won the trophy as a Real player, with his volley in the 2002 victory over Bayer Leverkusen considered one of the best goals to grace a final - although it was possibly surpassed by Gareth Bale's overhead kick on Saturday.

On the eve of the final, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp called Zidane, also a World Cup and European championship winner, "one of the best five players of all time".

Yet as a coach, he has now won nine trophies since replacing Rafael Benitez in the Santiago Bernabeu dugout in January 2016.

It is a remarkable record, all the more so for a man who has not yet convinced everyone that he is a tactical genius. "There is no secret. It is just a lot of hard work. What I am doing is just a continuation - I have just started as a coach," he said.

Having led Real to their longest period of sustained European Cup success since the 1970s means, statistically, his place in the pantheon of great coaches is secure, but the question is, where does Zidane go from here?

He recently insisted that winning LaLiga is harder than anything else, with Real finishing third behind champions Barcelona this term.

"We are not going to settle now for anything. You know that, at the start of the season, we always want to win everything," he added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2018, with the headline 'No secret to success, just lots of hard work: Zidane'. Print Edition | Subscribe