Zizou the incredible


Zizou the incredible

As a player, Zinedine Zidane, like Pelé, Messi, Maradona and Ronaldo, was one of football’s greatest. How does he fare among the great managers of the game? Michael Renouf provides the answers

Serie A, La Liga, the Ballon d’Or, the Champions League, the European Championship and the World Cup are just some of the countless trophies and individual awards Zinedine Zidane won as a player.

Would he be able to repeat this as a manager? As we all know, just because you are a great on the pitch, it does not always follow that you have the same sort of ability once you are sitting in the dugout.

But with Zizou, the answer is an unmistakable yes.

Born to Algerian parents in France in 1972, he had spells in French and Italian football before he found himself signing for Real Madrid in 2001, where he stayed until he retired in 2006.

In 2014 he took charge of Real Madrid Castilla, the Spanish giants’ B team, before taking the step up to take charge of the La Liga outfit that has a love affair with the European Cup on 4 January 2016, replacing Rafael Benitez, who had been sacked earlier that day after six months in charge of Los Blancos.

The appointment proved inspired – Real would go on to defeat city rivals Atlético Madrid on penalties to win the Champions League that season, their 11th triumph in the competition.

During the end of that season and the start of the next, Zidane led his charges to a club record of  16 consecutive league victories, including a 2-1 victory away to Barcelona in his first ‘El Classico’, something that always goes down well with the Madridistas.

He would also compile a record of 40 games unbeaten in all competitions, meaning his team went unbeaten for nine months, a record in Spanish football. Think about that for a moment, that means there were babies across the world conceived and ultimately born in a period when Spain’s most decorated team did not lose a single game!

Incredible season

His first full season as manager was an incredible one, one of the most successful in the history of this club that is built on success, as the team picked up four trophies.

Not only did they win La Liga, the Spanish Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup, they kept their Champions League crown (defeating Juventus 4-1), becoming the first team to retain the title since the European Cup was rebranded the Champions League.

In the 2017/18 season, although they failed to win the league (finishing third – 17 points behind  champions Barcelona) they again won four trophies, including holding on to  their title as champions of Europe, thanks to some dodgy keeping from the Liverpool stopper Loris Karius and two goals from substitute Gareth Bale.

This meant Zizou became only the third manager in history to win this trophy three times, the others being Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti, an elite group indeed.

Zidane’s record is unique, he is the only one of the trio that did it in three consecutive years. On 31 May, a few days after this impressive achievement, he decided to call it quits and stepped down as the manager. It was shortly after this that Cristiano Ronaldo ended his near decade-long association with the club and swapped paella for pasta, moving to Juventus.

It was not long before Real came calling again at Zinedine’s door once again and on 11 March 2019, he returned to the helm of the club.  He would soon need the keys to the club’s trophy cabinet, leading his team to two more trophies this season, including La Liga for the second time. Who would bet against him becoming Real Madrid’s most successful manager of all time? Certainly not me.

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