Zinedine Zidane's family caught up in FIFA ban on Real Madrid signings
Weekends at the Zidane family home, to the west of Madrid, are one long pools coupon. Up to five results to check and analyse.
Dad's fortunes are always front page, now he is three weeks into the job coaching the most decorated club in Spain, but no more vital to the mood over the breakfast table than how Castilla got on in their branch of La Liga's third division, or what happened to Real Madrid's U-18s, U-14s or U-12s.
Zinedine Zidane has four sons and they all play in the club's academy. The oldest, Enzo, has already learned to tread a studious line between the personal and professional. Until this month, he was taking orders from his father at Castilla, the Madrid feeder team.
"In the dressing-room, he is just another player, and when he gets home, he's my son again," Zinedine used to say.
If he is feeling bumptious, Enzo (20) might point out to his father that Castilla have done better since he moved on than they did in their last month under ZZ. While Real Madrid settled for a 1-1 draw with Real Betis last night, Castilla's 1-0 win was their third victory on the trot after the five draws in six games Zidane Snr oversaw before his elevation.
Had Enzo's long-range effort not drawn an alert save from the goalkeeper from visiting Mensajero, yesterday might have been 2-0 to Castilla. Promotion to Spain's second tier is a real target.
Enzo aspires to higher than that. He had trained with Madrid's first team before he was 18, invited to do so, three head coaches ago, by Jose Mourinho. His brother, Luca, has no reason, at 17, to suppose he should not aim high, too, given his status in his age group at Madrid and in the French set-up. Given their ability, there is every temptation to think a genetic inheritance filters down to Theo (13) and Elyaz (10).
But at the very moment the head of the Zidane dynasty settles into his most influential position of a 15-year relationship as player and coach with Real Madrid, there is a vexing issue: Real, following a Fifa investigation, have been found to have infringed regulations on the recruitment of U-18 players. Enzo and Luca Zidane, who were born in their father's native France, are understood to be on Fifa's list of signings that did not conform.
"Absurd," Zinedine Zidane called it, and, rather sooner than he had anticipated, found himself having to speak on an issue as head coach and as worried parent.
As head coach, Zidane knows he may have to plan without significant signings for a year, as of January 31, if FIFA's sanction against the club for the alleged infringements is upheld after Madrid's probable appeal. The penalty is a ban on registering signings for 12 months.
Zidane the father is also anxious to know what part of FIFA's rules his sons, or the club, could have infringed. One Fifa regulation stipulates that U-16s should not join a club more than a certain distance from where a parent lives and works and that parent should not move to the area for football reasons. FIFA's motive here is to avoid exploitation of minors.
The governing body became concerned minors were being taken on by clubs and their parents co-opted into deals by offers of jobs designed simply to get promising players on their staff. But in the case of Zidane, the most expensive footballer in history when he joined Real in 2001 and resident there with his family since, that is clearly not the scenario. If Real cannot sign players for 12 months, the greater will be the need to promote from the youth ranks, starting. At nearly 21, Enzo will soon look for signals about whether he will step up, or when. And he knows from whom those signals must come.
Atletico miss chance to reclaim top spot
Atletico Madrid surrendered top spot in La Liga to Barcelona when they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to 10-man Sevilla in a fiercely contested La Liga clash yesterday.
There was little to choose between the two teams but Sevilla were rocked when midfielder Vitolo earned a second caution and was sent off with around half an hour remaining and coach Unai Emery was dismissed from the bench for protesting the decision.
With a man extra, Atletico poured forward in search of a winner but Sevilla defence held firm.
Atletico and Barca each have 48 points, although the champions have a game in hand. Barca edged a 2-1 victory at Malaga on Saturday despite a poor first-half performance, Lionel Messi scoring the winner shortly after half-time.
Real Madrid sit four points behind in third after Karim Benzema scored their equalizer in a 1-1 at Real Betis.
Gary Neville's pursuit of a first league victory as Valencia manager continues after his team drew 1-1 at Deportivo La Coruna. Alvaro Negredo scored the equaliser in the third minute of injury-time to take Valencia up to 11th.