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Zidane’s star at Real Madrid was waning

2018-06-03 06:02
Zinedine Zidane.(Getty Images)

Johannesburg - With the most coveted - and some would say cursed - job in club football up for grabs, we will most likely see contracts torn up and the bank broken as managers consider a chance to dance with glory.

The resignation of Zinedine “Zizou” Zidane as Real Madrid manager was inevitable. The official reason for his decision to leave was that it was time for “a change, a different voice, another methodology”.

Zidane has spent the bulk of his coveted footballing life at Real Madrid, playing different roles, from player and adviser to academy coach and assistant under Carlo Ancelotti.

Undoubtedly, the one thing he must have learnt at the Merengue is that change is constant. In the past 17 years, he has seen 13 managers come and go. In 2016, with expectations high and zero coaching experience, he accepted club president Florentino Perez’s offer to take the reins.

Over the next 26 months, Zidane won nine of the club’s 13 trophies, making him the second most successful coach in Real Madrid’s 116-year history. Interestingly, the person ahead of him on this illustrious list is Miguel Munoz, another Real Madrid player turned manager. Their stories are eerily similar - both were midfielders, scored European final goals and coached the club to Spanish and European glory.

When Zidane took over from Rafael Benitez, the club was craving a trophy, any trophy.

After La Decima (the 10th European Cup), came a trophyless season. This saw Ancelotti - who won four trophies in one season and has the second best win ratio of all managers - get fired. Benitez followed the next season and the media told him to leave.

Zidane entered a depleted dressing room. On his first day, he greeted each player in the squad, who all stood up and shook his hand, though there was a Gareth Bale incident.

As a player, Zidane was poetry in motion. His control, elegance and skill were always on display, especially in big games.

As a manager, this big match temperament rubbed off on the players. His commanding presence reduced the egos of some of the world’s most attention-seeking crybabies to tolerable levels, making them receptive to his instructions.

After all, he had won almost every trophy, individual and team, in the game. Winning cups is something every Madrid player respects.

Yet the man never came off as holier than thou or someone who knew better.

At his first press conference, he was asked about his man management skills.

“You must have a good relationship with every player in order to do well,” was his reply.

On the touchline, he was cool, calm and collected, even serene. There was no screaming at the players or celebrating by sliding on the pitch. He was respect and grace personified.

In the Madrid dressing room, this went a long way, as Sergio Ramos once said: “Zidane was able to manage a difficult dressing room with sensitivity.”

But this is the King’s team and, as any monarch knows, the more losses you rack up, the more people start to talk - and that ultimately leads to a change.

This season, Zidane has been failing. In his first season and a half, he lost seven games. This season, he lost 11, including to Juventus, Barcelona and lowly Leganes.

Two years into his tenure, Los Blancos had been knocked out of the Copa del Rey competition - the only cup he didn’t manage to win as a player or a manager - and were fourth in La Liga. The calls for his head grew louder and the ugly side of being a Madrid boss started to rear its head.

“Why is he leaving Cristiano Ronaldo out? Why is Bale not playing? Why is Karim Benzema still playing?” were some of the questions asked.

Once this ball gets rolling, the only way to avoid the avalanche is to either get out of the way or let Perez push you out of the way.

Zidane knew this, and in February, he said: “Of course there could come a time when there needs to be a change - for the coach, the club, the players, everyone - but it is not the moment.”

He went on to make history by winning the Champions League with no change in style.

And so, before the rumble in Madrid could start, he left, just like when he ended his playing career on his own terms. Where to next, you ask?

Well, let me ask you this in return: Is Zidane not lucky that he is available to manage once the World Cup concludes?

Didier Deschamps, the man leading France to the grandest stage of them all, thinks so and knows that he is under pressure.

“(Zidane) will be coach (of France) at some point. I cannot say when, but that seems logical to me. It will happen when it happens.”

Read more on:    real madrid  |  zinedine zidane  |  soccer
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