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Zinedine Zidane gets candid after leaving Real Madrid. Talks about his tactics and gives advise to Julen Lopetegui.

The former Real Madrid manager talks about his experience of coaching his side to 3 consecutive UEFA Champions League titles. 

Published By: Dalipinder Singh Sandhu (Bliss)

Zinedine Yazid Zidane who served Real Madrid as a player and a manager spoke to UEFA recently. He talks about his ups and downs during his era which was arguably one of the most decorated in the club’s entire history. In his time from 2016 to 2018, Zidane’s side won 3 UEFA Champions League titles, 1 LaLiga, 2 UEFA Super Cups, 2 FIFA Club World Cups, and 1 Spanish Super Cup.

Zidane talked about all his three seasons in which he won the famous three-peat.

“All three titles were fantastic. They were all special for different reasons. The first stands out because it was my first as a coach; the second was both symbolic and intense – with us facing Juventus and turning in an exceptional second-half performance. And the third topped off my three seasons as coach of Real Madrid.”

Kari Benzema was one of the key players for Real Madrid in their recent success but his work rate wasn’t recorded in the statistics of goals and assists. The striker is known for being selfless and good in linking up the play by dropping deep. Zinedine Zidane recognized his importance and hailed his work rate.

“Karim was important for the balance of the side in terms of how I wanted the team to attack. He helped to implement our possession game by playing his team-mates in. He makes himself available and is a real team player.”

Real Madrid have never lacked a good leader. Zidane’s side had two of the most eligible captains in Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo. Usually, when two strong personalities play together they have some issues but Zidane claimed that was not the case with his side.

“They are both players with a lot of energy and influence within the squad. Sergio Ramos is a natural leader and a big presence in the dressing room, and Cristiano Ronaldo is a leader on the pitch who inspires his team-mates. They complement each other well.”

Even though Zidane has never been knocked out of the Champions League as a manager. His side struggled in home games and sometimes were saved by a margin as thick as a frog’s hair. Some notable games in the previous season were against Tottenham Hotspurs, Juventus, and Bayern Munich. Zidane believes this was due to the loss of concentration after winning the away legs.

“Very often, we managed to achieve very good performances away from home, which might explain a slight loss of concentration during the subsequent return legs. At the same time, I never had the impression that the team was panicking. When you work with high-quality players, they know how to manage those periods of games when you’re not playing well, and they get things back on track very quickly. My job was to keep people calm!”

The former coach also had an advice for his successor, Julen Lopetegui. Zinedine Zidane claims that in Madrid you have to win every title.

“For me, there is no difference. I have always prepared for all matches with the same level of application. In any event, when you’re coaching Real Madrid, you have to win everything, while maintaining a certain standard of play – that’s my philosophy.”

There were a couple of more issues on which the former coach emphasized such as:

Possession Play:

“When you have the ball, you’re not trying to win it back, so you’re normally in less danger. You can also make your opponents run and tire them out. Knowing that my players had the necessary skill set, I felt an obligation to strengthen our identity as a possession-based team – not possession for possession’s sake, but possession for the purposes of attacking our opponents. At the same time, having possession is no guarantee of victory!”

His tactics in midfield:

“I asked Kroos and Modrić to defend by pushing up and trying to deny our opponents space, while Casemiro gave us balance across the pitch by providing cover for those pressing midfielders. His role was key – both on the ground and in the air.”

The game plan for Cardiff final and Kiev final:

“Our game plan was indeed different. We didn’t play in a diamond formation like we did in Cardiff. I asked Isco to drop into midfield, and we played with two forwards. We also sought to occupy space by pushing Marcelo up. He had a lot of freedom to go forward, with Sergio Ramos providing defensive cover on his side.”

The loss to Juventus:

“That was definitely a case of us thinking that we already had the tie sewn up. That’s the beauty of football, even at the highest level. You have to remember that a tie is never over until it’s over, even if it looks like you have a comfortable cushion. You have to make sure that you avoid any loss of concentration by focusing on your game plan.”

Importance of analysis:

“At Real Madrid, my coaching staff and I used to spend time on team-level analysis, but we limited what we passed on, as I wanted our team to remain focused on our own game. However, I spent time on individual analysis during the week, and I had a word with each player before each match.”

The full interview can be read here:

Zinedine Zidane has been chosen as one of the nominees for FIFA The Best coach alongside the World Cup winner Didier Deschamps, and the World Cup finalist, Zlatko Dalic.  FIFA The Best awards will be given on 24th September 2018.

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