French legend Zinedine Zidane back with Real Madrid for the second stint

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Published: March 17, 2019 12:29:44 AM

During his first spell as the Real Madrid boss, Zidane had won nine trophies in two-and-a-half years. He is probably a guarantee to success.

New Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane after a press conference announcing his return, in Madrid, Spain (Image: REUTERS)New Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane after a press conference announcing
his return, in Madrid, Spain (Image: REUTERS)

Jose Mourinho seemingly has become a persona non grata in the all the clubs he managed and maybe beyond. Zinedine Zidane’s re-appointment as the Real Madrid manager further attested Mourinho’s slip down the managerial pecking order, with regards to the elite clubs in Europe. Santiago Solari’s position as the Real Madrid boss became untenable following a 4-1 hiding at the hands of Ajax in the Champions League pre-quarterfinals at the Bernabeu. Mourinho had been tipped to make a grand return, but the 13-time European champions chose Zidane instead.

Player power prevented Mourinho’s return to Madrid. The Portuguese is now a TV pundit after being sacked by Manchester United in December. Of late he had been waxing eloquent about his former Spanish club. For a yesterday’s man like him, it was understandable that he still reveled in his ‘100-point’ La Liga glory with Real Madrid in 2011-12. After that, as is his wont, Mourinho had spectacularly fallen out with the club icons like Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos during his third season in charge. The latter is a reason why Mourinho wasn’t offered the job this time. Ramos still bears a grudge against the self-styled special one.

“The dressing-room leaders pushed to reject the possibility of Jose Mourinho. He left a lot of problems and I think he would have been another problem to the ones we already have if he had come.

“I think Jose Mourinho would have been a step backwards, there was a lot of problems and controversy when he was here. He is a good coach with a lot of trophies but many of the leaders in the dressing-room didn’t like him and I think that was important in the decision-making,” former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon told Sky Sports.

Over to Zidane, who had left the club just nine months ago, much to the players’ chagrin. “The players loved him and he was able to change the ideas of coaches like Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho who managed with a strong hand. And of course he is an idol with the fans; playing for the club as well as managing them to three Champions League trophies in a row,” Calderon said.

Grapevine had it that the club president Florentino Perez didn’t agree with Zidane’s transfer demands and also the club’s decision to offload Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus. Madrid presidents are not used to face opposition from the club managers.

No wonder that Perez had refused to walk the extra mile to retain Zidane, notwithstanding the latter’s status as a club legend and also that he guided Madrid to three successive Champions League titles as the manager. A season of upheaval has somewhat forced the recall.

The season started with Julen Lopetegui becoming the Madrid manager at the expense of his Spanish national team job. It all happened during the World Cup. Lopetegui preferred Madrid over Spain but the move spectacularly backfired.

He got the boot only after four-and-a-half months in charge. A 5-1 El Clasico defeat to Barcelona proved to be the final straw. Solari came, but he was always going to be a stopgap in a team of the galacticos. The Madrid managerial job demands strong characters, who unlike Mourinho would be adept at man-management. Zidane perfectly ticks the box.

The Spanish press has reported that Zidane will be given unprecedented power this time. “The incoming boss has also been assured that he will be fully in charge of every aspect of the running of the team, including signings,” AS wrote. “Zidane is back at Real Madrid with carte blanche to renew the squad,” El Pais mentioned.

The new boss has been promised three superstar signings in the summer and the Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe reportedly tops the list.

The club president has already spoken about the French connection.

“He (Zidane) is French. Perhaps he can do something (with regards to Mbappe’s arrival),” Perez said tongue in cheek. Neymar, too, is said to be on the radar, plus Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba. Zidane admires Hazard, which is bad news for Chelsea. Some reports suggest, Zidane would be handed £300 million war chest to rebuild Madrid.

Out of the Champions League and placed third in the La Liga, 12 points off table-toppers Barcelona after 27 matches, the ongoing season has become a write-off for Europe’s most decorated club side. Under Zidane, they will go all out to annex their 14th Champions League title next term.

“I’m looking forward to this second project, with the president, the club and the fans,” Zidane said at a press conference, adding: “It’s a great challenge, I know that. But I’m really looking forward to it, to returning to coach. I want to work again and put this club back where it should be. The only thing for me is to start work tomorrow.”

During his first spell as the Real Madrid boss, Zidane had won nine trophies in two-and-a-half years. He is probably a guarantee to success.

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