International

Zidane already a hit with Real Madrid fans

2016-01-05 15:59
Zinedine Zidane (File)

Madrid - Thousands of Real Madrid fans turned out to cheer Zinedine Zidane as one of the game's all-time great players started his first day as coach of the Spanish giants.

While commentators expressed doubts about the Frenchman's experience, 5,000 fans packed the Alfredo di Stefano stadium at Real's training ground to see Zidane take his first session with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and other superstars.

The 43-year-old Zidane got right down to work within hours of Rafael Benitez being sacked on Monday night.

"Zizou!" "Zizou!" fans chanted as the World Cup winner walked out onto the pitch with his players wearing a grey tracksuit and fluorescent boots.

The Frenchman, whose only previous coaching job was in charge of Castilla, the Real B team, gathered players around him. Then he kicked the ball to start a training exercise, drawing shouts from the crowds.

Real president Florentino Perez sacked Benitez after the Spaniard strugged for seven months to win over Madrid's fans and leading players.

The club has suffered a year-long slump that has seen them burn through two Champions League-winning coaches -- Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti.

They are in third place in La Liga, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two points behind eternal rivals Barcelona, who have a game in hand.

Madrid were recently booted out of the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player, but they are still in the Champions League, facing Roma in the last 16 next month. And Zidane insisted when his name was announced that his aim is to win a trophy.

"We have the best club in the world, the best fans and what we have to do now, and what I will try my best to do, is ensure the team wins at the end of the season," said the Frenchman, who played for the club between 2001 and 2006.

"I'm more excited now than I was when I signed as a player. I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well," he added.

All eyes will now be on whether Zidane has the temperament and tactical ability to gel Madrid's 'Galacticos' into a trophy-winning unit.

Key players such as Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez often showed their disgust when substituted by Benitez. Off-field distractions also took their toll with Benzema facing blackmail charges over a sex-tape of France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, and Rodriguez accused of speeding at up to 200kph (124mph) last week.

Zidane is not known for his communication skills and had a fiery temperament on the field as a player. His career ended with an infamous headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy.

But he is respected by Madrid's players and adored by their fans for his feats on the field, highlighted by his brilliant winner in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen.

Spanish media said however that Zidane has his work cut out because of his lack of experience.

"The Frenchman is a football legend and a great figure of Madrid," wrote Marca, Spain's most read sports daily.

"But his coaching experience is inversely proportional to his excellent footballer's experience -- limited... and controversial."

He has spent a season and a half in charge of Madrid's feeder team Castilla, who failed to secure promotion from Spanish football's third tier last season.

But he has the advantage of knowing the players well -- he was Ancelotti's deputy in 2013 and 2014.

Read more on:    real madrid  |  zinedine zidane  |  soccer
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