Exactly four months after succeeding Rafael Benitez and inheriting a Real Madrid side on the brink of institutional crisis, Zinedine Zidane completed the team's revival by guiding them past Manchester City to the Champions League final.
Exactly four months after succeeding Rafael Benitez and inheriting a Real Madrid side on the brink of institutional crisis, Zinedine Zidane completed the team’s revival by guiding them past Manchester City to the Champions League final.
As Real’s players celebrated reaching a second Champions League final in three years on Wednesday, it was easy to forget the chaotic season the club has endured.
The club sensationally failed to sign David de Gea on transfer deadline day in August due to an administration error, and were further embarrassed in December when thrown out of the King’s Cup for fielding an ineligible player against Cadiz.
There were also disappointments on the pitch under Benitez, culminating in a 4-0 humiliation at home to rivals Barcelona and sparking calls for president Florentino Perez to resign.
Although Real remain third in La Liga, the same position when Zidane arrived, the Frenchman has quelled the protests and cut the gap with leaders Barcelona to a single point.
Madrid are also in their best domestic form of the season, winning 10 league games in a row and there is an undeniable sense the players enjoy a tighter bond than under Benitez.
“Zidane is doing a great job. He’s helping us and we are helping him,” said Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I admire him as a coach and a person, I hope he continues coaching us. We’ve always been behind Zidane because he is a humble person who likes to listen, and that always makes things easier.”
Former ‘Galactico’ Zidane heaped praise on his players but said they had not produced the most convincing performance in edging past City 1-0 in the second leg clash.
The 1-0 aggregate result, after last week’s goalless first leg stalemate, set up a mouthwatering final on May 28 against city neighbours Atletico Madrid, who they beat to lift their 10th European crown in 2014.
“City made things difficult for us but we’re happy to be in the final. We didn’t concede many chances but the result shows we found it difficult,” the 43-year-old said.
“We kept suffering until the end.
“I’m very happy with everything that has happened to me, I’m the coach of this team so I must have done something right but it’s not just me, it’s down to everyone who works with me and the most important ones are the players.”