Zinedine Zidane’s first day in charge of Real Madrid is in the books and the club legend has been a busy man.
Zidane, 43, was placed in charge of Real’s first team on Monday after Rafael Benitez was fired just seven months after being hired.
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A legendary figure at Real who played for Los Blancos for five years and won the UEFA Champons League and La Liga, plus was crowned the World Player of the Year while at the Santiago Bernabeu, Zidane is undertaking his first head-coaching job at the top level after being promoted from coaching Real’s B side.
He served as an assistant coach for Carlo Ancelotti two seasons ago when Real won their famous La Decima and has been groomed by club president Florentino Perez for many years for this moment. His time is now.
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Over 6,000 fans turned up to watch Real train on Tuesday, then Zidane was a little late for his unveiling alongside another club legend and current director Emilio Butragueno.
Sitting down to chat with media, Zidane was quiet but forthright with his answers and answered in French and Spanish. One of his most intriguing answers was about Gareth Bale, a player said to be extremely upset with the firing of Benitez last weekend following Real’s 2-2 draw with Valencia.
“I understand that Gareth could be annoyed by Rafa’s departure because he was a very important coach in his career,” Zidane said. “But he is going to receive the same affection from me. He is fundamental for the team and what he has been doing of late for us on the pitch is phenomenal. He will have all my support so that he continues to play well for us.”
Inevitably, given the similarities, Zidane was asked if he could compare himself to Pep Guardiola as the former Barcelona coach also made the transition from player, to coaching Barca’s reserve team and then up to the first team. Guardiola won 14 trophies in four seasons at the Nou Camp and is regarded today as one of the great coaches in the game. Zidane is not interested in comparisons.
“You cannot have that comparison. Guardiola is Guardiola. I will do my best,” Zidane said. “Guardiola is a fantastic coach and what he’s doing is very impressive. I am not going compare myself to him. I didn’t as a player and won’t do so as a coach. What is important is what I will try and do with this squad. I am going to try my best and we will work hard.”
Zidane also spoke about his apprenticeship working for the likes of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti at Real and how he aims to take parts of their management and mesh it with his own ideals in his first high-profile coaching job.
“Good football has always been important at Real Madrid. Good football, beautiful football. I aim to continue that,” Zidane said. “It has to be offensive football, balanced, and nothing else. We have to work hard to be the best we can on the pitch, that is my message to the players.”
He was also asked if Real can still win the Champions League this season, and the man who scored in the final back in 2002 at Hampden Park when Real won its ninth title believes they can make win their 11th this summer.
“When you play with his this shirt everything is real and to win is absolutely essential. I am well aware of that,” Zidane said. “We are in the last 16 of the Champions League but the target is always to win it. That remains the target. I have motivation and I have hope. That will help us.”