The incredible legacy Zinedine Zidane is building at Real Madrid
We take a look at the legendary Zinedine Zidane and how he is transforming himself into a top quality manager at Real Madrid.
The Vicente Calderon will be hollow now, but just a few miles away from the enormous structure is a hardworking manager who is taking to time to establish his name as one of the best tacticians to lead the best team in the city of Madrid. Real Madrid’s thrilling victory against Atletico Madrid was masterminded by the ever-calm Zinedine Zidane.
He has barely shown emotion on the touchlines after been named coach of Madrid. He has been a leader not just in the dressing room, but slowly up-skilling his players silently yet effectively.
The likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have written their stories in the La Liga – different-styled managers with absolutely contrasting dispositions. Battles have been fought. The two former Spanish top flight managers have gone neck to neck at each other before strutting their stuff in the English Premier League these days. Luis Enrique and Diego Simeone have had turns at each other as well, although not as exquisitely fierce as the former two.
Zidane enters the scene as a serial winner, while a footballer, legend of the beautiful game and one who will forever be remembered for his skill and dazzle on the ball for well over a decade-long career spell. Having completed his playing career, Zizou – as he is popularly known as – stated his intent on making a name as a coach and he has delivered on his word.
Winning the Undecima for Real Madrid in a short spell after replacing Rafa Benitez was always going to speak for him in high places when decisions were to be made about the long-term plan for the club with respect to its head coach. Zizou landed a two-year deal to remain the club’s ultimate tactical decision maker.
The best attribute of any top manager is mould squads that represent them. From Mourinho to Sir Alex Ferguson; the managers always tend to leave an imprint on their squads that tell the story of who they were.
Their influence on the clubs they manage, many years after they leave will be remembered. They are known as creators and enforcers of specific styles and systems.
"This is Real Madrid. I was a player here, it is the top of the top and that is how it is. What interests me is looking for solutions," Zidane said he was awarded a new contract at the club.”
"The demands of this club are day-to-day. People can value the fact we won the Champions League or not, but if we don't do things well tomorrow I know what can happen.”
"I know where I am," said Zidane after leading Real to their eleventh European crown.
The pressure of being a Real Madrid manager can be chastening but the former Juventus midfielder is living the life at Santiago Bernabeu effortlessly. At 44 years old, Zidane is a relatively young manager who could leave an impression on world football should he continue on the trajectory he’s on.
The 3-0 win against Atletico Madrid was further evidence, the man born in La Castellane in Marseille, is creating a legacy at one of Europe’s top clubs.
Watch Real play these days and you’d notice a clear freedom and expression from the players. They seem to be overwhelmed by the individual autonomous power given by Zidane, best displayed on the pitch. His shapes and formations have been flexible, and the results and dominance by Real in recent games are testament to that.
He is however not getting carried away by formation changes than the efforts put in by his players.
"We essentially played a 4-4-2, but the formations aren't as important as players being willing to work hard and give everything," he said after the victory over Atletico. Such is the general attitude he’s instilling in the squad.
There were periods in the early stages of the campaign this season when doubts lingered around his head. ”Could he be ready for the job?” popped up after Cristiano Ronaldo and co failed to win in four consecutive games across all competitions.
Perhaps, the Champions League was a fluke considering he inherited a good squad.
However, the Frenchman is gradually establishing his mark on a team that was said to lack balance and proper successors to their key men as well. He has now gone 32 games as Real manager, losing only one game, drawing five times and picking up 26 victories.
One would imagine why there was so much attention on the man who had led Real to a 28-game unbeaten run on their way to the Undecima.
The target at Real is simple in the last few years, especially after winning the Champions League in 2014, the club now aims at winning the La Liga. It is noteworthy that the club has won the Spanish top flight only once in the last eight years - with the only victory coming in the 2011/12 season under former irreconcilable manager Jose Mourinho.
34 goals scored under the stewardship of the pragmatic manager having played 11 games this season in the top flight, there is a certain level of certainty that this is the season they will land the coveted La Liga title. If not for anything, the crucial and rare victory at Atletico should clear concerns that the poor run of not winning the La Liga could continue beyond this season.
"Not many teams can come to the Vicente Calderon and win 3-0 like this," Zidane gushed during the post-match press conference.
"Our approach in every game is to win. We knew that would be difficult today, but we did it with hard work and determination."
Zidane’s eminence at the Bernabeu is evident in how every one of his stars at the club will waste no time eulogizing the head coach.
"I think the coach is fully involved. His qualities are not in doubt and he acts correctly faced with this situation," said Toni Kroos following Real’s short blip in form, picking up three draws in the La Liga.
Zidane’s side sits top of the La Liga charts with 30 points after 12 games played, four above perennial rivals Barcelona and look good for the title for the first time in five years.
Zizou is creating something special at the club, and it’s worth pointing out.