Dubai: It’s not easy for a super successful manager to return to a demanding club like Real Madrid and start replicating one’s past success. Unless of course, you are a Zinedine Zidane.
When the Frenchman was reappointed in March last year, Madrid president Florentino Perez said Zidane had come again to launch “a glorious new era”.
But standing next to him was Madrid’s third coach of the season, taking over a team 12 points behind Barcelona, having just been knocked out and outplayed by Ajax in the Champions League.
Most thought it was a mistake, the coach that had gone out on the highest of highs returning to a team in tatters.
Cut to 500 days later, ‘Zizou’ proved his critics wrong when in an empty Alfredo di Stefano Stadium at Real Madrid’s training ground, he hoisted another trophy, his second in La Liga and 11th overall as coach.
The situation was far from ideal when he came back - Cristiano Ronaldo was gone and it seemed those that remained had lost the hunger. “We will change things, for sure, and for the years to come,” Zidane said.
“He’s key, he’s the captain of the ship and he’s the one who has to stand up and make the difference amongst everyone else,” Sergio Ramos, the club’s talismanic captain was quoted as saying.
“He’s always been someone who has placed his trust in his players and we feel really well supported by him. We believe in him and his work. Everything he touches turns to gold. Long may it last and may people appreciate what a great person he is. He’s a unique coach,” he added.
The ‘Los Blancos’ on Friday defeated Villarreal by 2-1 with the help of Karim Benzema’s brace. On the other hand, the second-placed club, Barcelona, suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Osasuna which gave Zidane-led side an unassailable seven-point lead at the top of La Liga table.
This was the 34th La Liga title won by Real Madrid as they hit a winning streak, registering their 10th consecutive win in the competition.
The side has not faced even a single defeat since the resumption of La Liga following the coronavirus-enforced break.
Coming back more revitalised after the pandemic, Real looked more determined than ever that an 11-match sprint would end with a trophy. “After lockdown there was something very particular,” said Zidane on Wednesday. “I could see it in training. The players wanted something.”
Zidane had a bigger squad than Barcelona’s but his willingness to rotate became key. Tournaments have also been his strength and perhaps he rekindled that mentality. With no time for training, the message was simple: Win.
Zidane has now silenced the doubters, even if it remains to be seen whether he can rebuild a team or replicate his success elsewhere.
But just as this Madrid were a mess without him, with him they are celebrating again!
Full name: Real Madrid Club de Futbol
Nicknames: Los Blancos (‘The Whites’), Los Merengues (‘The Meringues’)
President: Florentino Perez (2000-2006 and 2009-present)
Coach: Zinedine Zidane (January 2016-May 2018 and March 2019-present)
Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu
Champions League/European Cup: 13 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Uefa Cup/Europa League: 2 (1985, 1986)
European Super Cup: 3 (2002, 2014, 2016)
Intercontinental Cup: 3 (1960, 1998, 2002)
Club World Cup: 4 (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)
La Liga: 34 (1932, 1933, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2017, 2020)
Copa del Rey: 19 (1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1917, 1934, 1936, 1946, 1947, 1962, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1989, 1993, 2011, 2014)
Spanish Super Cup: 11 (1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2012, 2017, 2020)
Spanish League Cup: 1 (1985)