This season will mark 20 years since Zinedine Zidane won his first football league title as a player, the 1996/97 Serie A title. Now in charge of Real Madrid, the club he played for from 2001 to 2006, can he, two decades on, win his first league title as a manager? It would be a great feat for Zidane, not only would a domestic championship win add to his growing managerial CV, but it would also end Real Madrid’s 5 year La Liga title drought.
The Frenchman had a glittering playing career which started in his native country with Cannes then Bordeaux before moving to Juventus in 1996, then onto Real Madrid 5 years later. A world cup winner with France, at club level Zidane won 13 honours including 3 league titles, Serie A twice and a La Liga championship. Now as a manager, ‘Zizou’ as he is known to some, is bidding to win the Spanish title in his first full season in charge at The Bernabeu.
Questions are always asked of young managers with little experience, especially when they are taking charge of one of the greatest clubs in the world. However, Zidane seems to have won over some doubters already. Taking over from the disastrous reign of Rafa Benitez, and a team that was trailing in 3rd in the league and had just been thrashed by Barcelona 4-0, the Frenchman had a lot of work to do. He turned Real Madrid’s fortunes around in a short space of time, having only taken charge in January 2016, he led the club to his first major honour as a manager, the Champion’s League.
Having guided Real Madrid into a great position at the top of the La Liga table this season, Zidane will need to show the drive and determination he demonstrated when he took over a depleted side last year, to keep them in top spot and win the title.
Not all ex-players can cut it as a top manager, but some may say Zidane has already shown that he can become as world-class a manager as he was a player. He guided Real Madrid to a 40-game unbeaten run which is a new La Liga record, already mentioned is his Champions League success, and he also won the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, all this before he has even completed a full season in charge of the club. The signs look good for the Frenchman to follow in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique in La Liga. These young managers have both successfully managed the club they used to play for, in their case Barcelona, Zidane will be looking to do the same with the club’s rival team.
The big advantage Zidane holds in his bid for the La Liga title and becoming one of Real Madrid’s most successful managers is respect from his players. This is a vital ingredient when managing any club, but made all the easier when you were a world-class player and have won pretty much everything in the game at club and international level. The footballers you are in charge of admire you, hold you in high esteem, ‘run all day for you’ and ‘through brick walls,’ this is certainly, and rightly so happening for the Frenchman at The Bernabeu. A prime example of Zidane’s influence on his players and the admiration they have for him was shown when he brought James Rodriguez back into the team after months on the side-lines. The Colombian played an excellent game for his new manager and repaid him with a goal, he even went onto say that Zidane is his idol proving even players who are not first team regulars have the upmost respect for The Frenchman. Zidane is now reaping the benefits of having been a world-class player and winning every trophy football has to offer, his magnificent career has undoubtedly earnt him credibility amongst the players he now manages.
Zinedine Zidane has broken records in his short time as manager of Real Madrid and has led the team to three major trophies. The signs are looking good for the 1998 World Cup winner to become an outstanding manager as well as having been an outstanding player. A first La Liga title in only 16 months in charge of The Bernabeu club would certainly show Zidane is the ‘Real’ deal. It remains to be seen if he can hold his nerve, as well as his teams, and keep them at the top of the table until the end of the season, but if his time in charge so far has proven anything, it is that he certainly has the attributes to manage at the very top and has a very settled dressing room on his side.
Two decades on from becoming a league champion for the first time in his professional football career, Zinedine Zidane’s managerial career is blossoming and he will be determined to roll back the years by lifting another title in May. Zidane really could become the ‘Real’ man to lead the team to further successes and go onto become one of the greatest and most adored managers in the history of the club.