Zinedine Zidane is arguably the greatest coach Real Madrid has ever had. It is a unique and marvellous achievement to be considered as the greatest coach of one of the most prominent football clubs. In his two and a half seasons as the Los Blancos's coach, he managed to win three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles and one LaLiga championship.
Zidane's Madrid is the first team in the Champions League era to win it three consecutive times.
After achieving a legendary status as a Real Madrid player, he was able to replicate the same as a coach. Many doubted that he would be able to be a good manager due to his lack of experience and poor record with the reserve team. Needless to say, he proved them wrong.
People believe that his man-management was his only asset as a coach. I completely disagree with this myth. He may not have his own philosophy but he surely knew how to counter other teams. He took advantage of the tall players in the side. Real Madrid 2016-17 were one of the stronger teams regarding aerial abilities in the history of football.
No matter how bad Real Madrid were playing in the domestic league, they always turned up on the Champions League nights. Here is a look at five of the greatest Champions League matches that Real Madrid played with Zidane as their head coach:
#5. Real Madrid vs Wolfsburg / 2015-16
This was one of the earlier matches Madrid played under Zidane. After being behind by two goals in the first leg of the quarterfinals, he inspired the team to a thrilling comeback. Real Madrid won 3-0 in the second leg courtesy to a hat-trick by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real were a joy to watch in the game. This was the start of an era of a team which refused to give up. Many comebacks were followed after this match, but this one remains the most special.
The sheer determination to win could be seen in every player's eyes. Cristiano did what he does best. The fullbacks helped to exploit the opposing defence and create space, which was a distinctive feature of Zidane's Madrid. Navas was solid at the back. Ramos, Varane and Casemiro allowed the rest of the team to attack carelessly.
Modric and Kroos pulled the strings and dictated the game, while Benzema helped to create space in the final third for the attackers and Bale also created some real goal scoring threats.
This game is on the list as it started an era. The comeback was Zidane's way of showing that what he can do in the big European nights. Real Madrid went on to win the 2015-16 UCL, giving Zidane his first European title after six months as the boss.
#4. Real Madrid vs PSG / 2017-18
Real Madrid were going through a poor run in LaLiga last season. They were way behind their rivals FC Barcelona in the table and they had practically lost the title in December.
The only way to save the team's season was to win the Champions League and PSG was the first big test for Real Madrid in the round of 16. After the signings of Neymar and Mbappe, PSG were looking invincible. It was a rare occasion as the mighty Los Blancos were coming to the pitch as the underdogs in the Champions League.
Nobody favoured them to win. After a first half dominated by PSG at the Bernabeu, the score was 1-1. It was not until the intelligent substitution which brought Asensio and Lucas Vazquez in the game when Real started to dominate. Asensio changed the dynamic of the game. He provided an assist and created a chance for another goal in the final ten minutes and the final score in the first leg was 3-1.
Real Madrid started the second leg in Paris without three of their preferred midfielders as Modric, Kroos and Isco were injured. Even though Modric and Kroos were on the bench, only Kroos managed to get some game time. The final score in the second leg was 2-1. The score was just an understatement of what happened on the pitch. Real completely dominated the game for 90 minutes.
I personally liked this match so much because the PSG ultras had created a great atmosphere. But the spirits and willingness to win of Madrid's players was far more than that compared to players of PSG. The odds were very less, but with Cristiano in your team and Zidane as your coach, nothing is impossible. Ronaldo scored three goals in the two matches and helped Madrid advance on their way to their third UCL win in a row.
#3. Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid / 2016-17
Real Madrid defeated their city rivals 4-2 on aggregate in the UCL 2016-17 semi-final. It was a very exciting fixture as both teams were familiar with playing with against each other. The second leg was the last UCL match played at Atletico's Vicente Calderon.
Real Madrid won 3-0 at home with a Ronaldo hat-trick. Ronaldo's hat-trick at the Bernabeu in this match is considered as one of the most brilliant individual performance in the history of the competition. This was also Ronaldo's second consecutive hat trick in the tournament after he put three on Bayern Munich's bag. The Portuguese player is the only person to do so.
Saul gave Atletico the perfect start in the second leg. It was then followed by a penalty covered by Griezmann. Atletico were back in the game with the aggregate of 2-3. Isco scored an important away goal courtesy to the moment of magic by Benzema and the rest of the match was quiet. Atletico may have been eliminated from the competition, but they managed to get a win in Calderon in its last European game.
Real and Atletico have met each other various times in the recent Champions League seasons and Real have beat them every time, but this defeat was the best amongst the other matches due to the dominance Zidane's team displayed en route to the Duodécima.
#2. Real Madrid vs Liverpool / 2017-18
After a rough domestic season, only a Champions League title could save the season. Nobody believed that Real could win it for the third consecutive time, but with an experienced and talented squad and a manager like Zidane, nothing was impossible.
Liverpool were playing a very high pressing game under Jurgen Klopp and the attacking trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino was tearing defences every weak. Liverpool's defence was finally working after the singing of Virgil Van Dijk. On the other hand, Real had the best players in every position who had already won two consecutive Champions League trophies and three of the last four. It was truly going to be a very competitive fixture.
This was the last match Real Madrid played with Zidane as their boss. Liverpool were dominating until Mo Salah's injury and Modric and Kroos helped Madrid to resist the press. The substitution of Bale in the second half changed the match. Bale came in and scored two wonderful goals, one of them was a majestic bicycle kick. while the other was a mistake by Liverpool's goalkeeper Karius, who gifted two goals to Real. It was truly a night to forget for Karius and a night to remember for all the Madridistas.
I favour this game so much as this watch the last match of Cristiano and Zidane for the Casa Blanca. Winning a single Champions League title is a dream for every club, but under Zidane, Real Madrid was pure dominance.
#1. Real Madrid vs Juventus / 2016-17
Real Madrid were going against Juventus in the Champions League 2016-17 final. No team was the clear favourite as both sides were crowned as domestic champions in their leagues. While Juventus had a solid defence, Madrid had a fierce attack. An unstoppable force was going to try to move an immovable object.
The first half was extremely competitive. The score after halftime was 1-1. Mandzukic had scored a bicycle equaliser after Cristiano's opener.
The second half was totally dominated by Los Blancos. Zidane encouraged Benzema to create more space in the final third and also said to Modric and Carvajal to play a more attacking role. This can be seen in the documentary of La Duodecima. Real were able to break Juventus's high defensive line by making continuous back passes.
Casemiro's screamer gave Real the lead and broke the opponent's morale. Ronaldo scored another one which made him the top scorer of the competition and continued his amazing run in that tournament, and Asensio's goal was the final nail in the coffin. This was the last match of Real Madrid's most successful campaign in their glorious history.
This is my favourite game Real played with Zidane as this was the last game of the 2016-17 season. The 2016-17 squad is one of the greatest teams in the history of football. Real had arguably the best and second best player for almost every position. The way Los Blancos humiliated the Italian giants in the final was something beyond genius.