Sunday 27 May 2018

'It's like winning the World Cup' - Zinedine Zidane on the 'massive joy' of guiding Real Madrid to Champions League glory

Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane poses with the trophy after Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League final. Getty Images
Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane poses with the trophy after Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League final. Getty Images

Tom Rooney

As a once in a generation player, Zinedine Zidane won every conceivable major trophy on the club and international stage and, after less than a full season in management, he’s added a Champions League to that impressive haul.

There are exceptions, such as Johan Cruff, Brian Clough and Kenny Daglish, but exceptional players often fail to emulate their on-field exploits after transitioning into management.

Zidane, of course, was a wonderfully languid and refined operator, who delicately glided and meandered through rear guards in the most compelling fashion.

For France, he spearheaded European Championship and World Cup victories in the space of two years, scoring a headed double in the final of the latter tournament as Les Bleus defeated Brazil by 3-0 in 1998.

His club career was replete with countless memorable moments but, perhaps, it was the stunning volley for Real Madrid to win the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer 04 Leverkusen that lingers most vividly.

At the start of this year the 43-year-old was thrust into the most volatile position in football - Real Madrid manager. Having only coached the club’s Castilla side, Zidane was called upon to succeed Rafa Benitez.

Understandably, few imagined it to be an arrangement built for longevity. However, expectations have been exceeded.

Zidane won't be able to add to his squad next month, but the club can resume next summer

Madrid finished second in La Liga, just a point behind Barcelona, who they managed to beat under Zidane’s watch and, last night, they clinched a second Champions League in three seasons- again at the expense of city rivals Atletico.

It wasn’t a classic by any means, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner in the penalty shootout ensured Real became the kings of Europe for the 11th time.

When asked to describe his jubilation by Sky Sports, Zidane was notably specific.

"At the end getting the Champions League is the best along with winning the World Cup. After all the work we did I am very proud, it has been a phenomenal job. I'm happy because I've been part of this great club for a long time now. I feel really very proud."

Acutely aware of the mortality rate for men in his position, Zidane refused to look too far ahead and made sure to credit his players for their toil on a thick, balmy evening at the San Siro.

"The future? We'll see, now let's enjoy this. Of course I dreamed. You always have to dream, think positive, be optimistic, and know that things can get done with work and effort.

"I'm very happy for everything we've achieved together. It's not easy at all. We've really worked hard, fought it out.

"When you have players of this calibre, with this talent, you can achieve something big like we have tonight."

Zidane joins the small circle of those who have won the competition as a player and manager.

He is the seventh in history to do so. Former Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, who guided the club to La Decima in 2014 before his inexplicable sacking, is another of the over-achievers.

 Zidane revealed that he and the new Bayern Munich coach had spoken of such a moment.

"Ancelotti told me he hoped I'd be able to lift (the trophy) as a head coach. He was right, it's a massive joy. I'm empty, but it's all positive.

“When you achieve what we've achieved all season it means you've done well, that the messages have got through, that the players have followed me, that I've followed them and that's how we've managed to win this Champions League."

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