Zinedine Yazid Zidane is one of the greatest players ever to have ever kicked a football, and following his third straight triumph in the Champions League on Saturday – perhaps rather annoyingly – he’s now going the right way about becoming one of the best to instruct others at how to kick a ball as well.
In all seriousness, that’s doing the Frenchman a disservice. The fact of the matter is, the former midfielder is fast developing into an elite manager at arguably the biggest club in the world, when most predicted the chop for a him after a couple of seasons at the most.
Almost laughably, Zidane has now won nine major trophies since taking the reins at the Bernabeu in 2016 out of a possible 13, which is a monumental middle finger to all those that slated his appointment, claiming him unfit to lead a team of egotistical superstars. That’s nine trophies. In just 28 months.
With Saturday’s victory, he has now become the first manager to ever win three consecutive titles, and he is already level with Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley as the tactician with the most European crowns.
He has more than Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Zidane has been in the managerial game for all of five minutes.
His abilities as a manager can no longer be questioned, what we actually should be talking about is where he places among the best coaches to grace the game.
Yes, on paper Real Madrid have had a team of top class players for the past few years, but that’s only half the story.
What’s most obvious with Zidane at Madrid is that the winning mentality that allowed him to reach such dizzy heights as a player has followed him into management, and his players are contently feeding off of that like a siesta-loving man supping an ice cold San Miguel on the beach.
There is a respect there between players and manager now. A trust in an intelligent man that clearly knows what he’s doing. That trust and respect might not have been as strong had someone else got the gig.
Not only has he showcased his winning mentality, but his ever improving tactical nous and game management is there for all to see. Against Liverpool, he trusted Karim Benzema to perform and he absolutely did. In the second half, he recognised the need to withdraw Isco and replace him with Gareth Bale to tip the balance. And boy did the Welshman do that in some style.
Perhaps Zidane got slightly ‘lucky’ in his first season coming in as someone with next to no experience but still guidied his team to success, but that is where that particular argument stops.
Zidane since his appointment in 2016
UEFA Champions League
UEFA Super Cup
Club World Cup
Spanish Super Cup
— #UCLfinal (@ChampionsLeague) 26 May 2018
Zidane now boasts wins over Mourinho in the Super Cup final and Diego Simeone, Max Allegri and Jurgen Klopp in Champions League finals, as well as one domestic league title. Are people honestly still thinking that with such results, this man is ‘lucky’? These guys are the game’s elite coaches, and Zidane has masterminded victories over all of them.
The consistency is quite remarkable. In his 28 months, he has lost just 16 games. Currently he has a win ratio of 70%.
Even in the face of potential adversity this season, Zidane and his players have something major to show for their efforts – another coveted Champions League after navigating their way past the champions of France, Germany and Italy.
There could be even more silverware on the horizon – Madrid are now headed for a showdown with rivals Atletico Madrid in the 2018 Super Cup, and will also have the chance to win the Club World Cup again. Should he triumph – and you simply can’t bet against him now – it’ll mean no manager has delivered more in so little time.
It’s time for the cynics to eat their words – Zidane’s unprecedented achievements since hanging up his boots are the most exotic fruits of his punishing labour. Make no bones about it, he is on his way to managerial greatness., if not already there.