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Opinion

Zidane is up there in football's coaching A-list

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Zinedine Zidane has done enough this season to dismiss any suggestion that his coaching successes are due to the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

In his relatively short stint as coach of Real Madrid, the Frenchman has led Spain's most famous club to three UEFA Champions League and two La Liga titles.

After helping the club win the game's highest honour as a player in 2002 when his spectacular volley floored Bayer Leverkusen in the Glasgow final, Zidane retired at the end of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

He flirted with futsal and exhibition matches for a while but he was always keen on coaching.

He worked his way up the ranks at th Bernabeu and in early 2016 he was given the reins of Madrid's stellar first team after Rafa Benitez's dismissal. The rest is history.

A few months later he led the 'Merengues' to their 11th European Cup/Champions League title and he repeated the dose in 2017 and 2018 for a glorious hat-trick.

Many dismissed Zidane as a fortunate coach who inherited a squad of considerable class and pedigree that included such superstars as Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Others pointed out that the Frenchman, despite his successes, was essentially a rookie who was still learning the ropes as a top-class manager and had yet to earn his rightful place in football's managerial A-list.

Recent events would suggest that Zidane's star is very much on the rise in much the same way as Jose Mourinho's is fading.

The two legs of the Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool and the Clasico against Barcelona showed Zidane's ability to get it right when it matters most because he certainly outmanoeuvred his more experienced counterparts Jurgen Klopp and Ronald Koeman.

In the first leg against Liverpool he got midfielder Toni Kroos to use his long-range passing skills to exploit Liverpool's tendency to leave plenty of space behind their defence and speed merchants Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior did all the damage in a 3-1 win.

In the return at Anfield, Zidane opted for a blanket defence that was described as a 'white wall' that at times looked like catenaccio to thwart the Reds' attack and earn a 0-0 draw.

It was not pretty and Liverpool had their chances to score but Madrid's aggregate victory was not undeserved.

In between both ties Madrid also overcame Barcelona 2-1 thanks largely to Zidane's bold decision to drop in-form striker Marco Asensio in favour of Fede Valverde who was given the task of making sure Barca's tearaway left back Jordi Alba received as little ball as possible. The ploy worked.

Madrid, who showed considerable fighting qualities to thwart the Reds and Barca, are now in yet another Champions League semi-final where they meet Chelsea and a mere point behind crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid in La Liga with eight matches to go.

It is anybody's guess if Madrid are capable of winning either trophy or both for a double that would have been highly unlikely six months ago.

However one thing is for sure: Zinedine Zidane has every right to be recognised as one of football's finest contemporary coaches.

 

Source SBS The World Game