Sunday 15 December 2019

There is little evidence that Zinedine Zidane can be Real Madrid's Pep Guardiola

Real Madrid's new coach Zinedine Zidane (L) embraces Real Madrid's President Florentino Perez at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid
Real Madrid's new coach Zinedine Zidane (L) embraces Real Madrid's President Florentino Perez at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid

Pete Jenson

“Too much, too soon” was the verdict in Madrid today when Zinedine Zidane was handed the poisoned-chalice job of head coach at Real Madrid.

The Spanish club are desperate for the 43-year-old Frenchman to follow the lead of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique who have both won Trebles at Barcelona after representing the club as players. The fear at the Bernabeu, however, is that Zidane is not Guardiola and if he is to become a Luis Enrique he will need time.

Guardiola got the Barça B team promoted from the third tier in his only season in charge of Barcleona’s second string before taking over the first team. That was a task that proved too much for Zidane last season and is still proving difficult this season. Luis Enrique, meanwhile, failed to make the jump from the Barça B-team to the first XI and needed to pick up experience at Roma and Celta Vigo before he was ready to take over at the Nou Camp and enjoy success.

Zidane was ultimately preferred to the available Jose Mourinho because president Perez felt that the Portuguese would divide the Bernabeu. Around 45,000 fans voted on the return of the Portuguese coach when he was sacked by Chelsea and the 52 per cent for/48 per cent against summed up the way he would bring anything but calm and harmony to a club in its usual state of mid-season flux.

Zidane will bring unity.

The supporters who will fill the club’s training ground tomorrow to watch the players train in an open session will unanimously back the man whose volley in Glasgow in 2002 gave Real a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen for their ninth European Cup. The Argentine midfielder Santiago Solari was in the team that night and he will be Zidane’s No 2 when he takes over for Sunday’s opening game against Deportivo.

“Zizou” returned to Real in 2014 and despite not having the required coaching badges in his first season he established himself and was soon spoken about as a long-term candidate for the top job. Real directors were hoping that the transition would not take place until the end of the season at the earliest with Rafa Bentiez coming in to replace Carlo Ancelotti and completing a full campaign but now he must step in mid-term with questions over his ability to give the players the solutions they will need during games and manage a squad full of players who all feel they should be in the first XI.

Because the two jobs are so different, they hope Zidane’s underwhelming time as B-team boss will have little bearing on how well he does coaching the superstars. Many of the first-team players will be pleased. Zidane has been a personal sponsor of Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane in the past and both will welcome his appointment. Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo will also welcome the change having never accepted Benitez, unhappy as they were at Ancelotti’s sacking.

Benitez also upset the James Rodriguez in recent weeks and the midfielder Isco had threatened to leave the club, into the arms of Manchester City if the manager was not changed.

But not everyone will be happy. Gareth Bale was enjoying working with Benitez and is understood to be upset at his departure.  One of Zidane’s first jobs will be to ensure that Bale’s recent form continues and there is no return to last season’s state of affairs when he felt he was being pushed around to fit the needs of other big-name players at the club. A failure to do so will greatly improve Manchester United’s chances of signing him at the end of the season.

Independent News Service

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