Former Real Madrid coach Zinédine Zidane gave a long interview to the team. Selected excerpts.
His transfer to Real in 2001: “I had just turned 29. I had a bottle. But I knew that I was missing that, Real Madrid. Somehow, I needed this departure to boost my career. I had been at Juve since five years, I had won everything except the Champions League. We lost it twice. I needed this revival, this new challenge.
A dream come true: “It was in my head and it got stronger little by little. When you made Juve, won everything with the France team, at 28-29, you have to start on another level. Real was mine. And I knew it was in Florentino Pérez’s head. And when he has something in his head, everything goes very fast with him too.”
Number 5: “Five years at Juve, five years at Real… If one day, someone looks at the place of the number 5 in my life, that he digs, there are incredible things. For example, I was involved in five Champions League victories with Real Madrid: one as a player, one as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti and three as a head coach. Even in my family life, he comes back. When I go to a hotel, when I’m on the 5th floor, I win the match. 99%! There are some special things. In Madrid, Florentino Pérez tells me, when I sign: “Me, in my team, the numbers go from 1 to 11. There are no 35 or 40 on the jerseys!” And he continues: “The only one that’s free is 5.” I answer him : “No problem, I’ll take it right away.” That 5 gave me a lot.”
His failed goal against Leverkusen: “The most beautiful, I don’t know. Maybe. Surely. But one of the most important, yes. I needed it to win my first Champions League. I also needed to be decisive with Madrid in a grand finale. This gesture only happens once in a lifetime. I tried to do it again, especially for commercials. They would have liked it. But it never fell well. I never succeeded like that.”
His UCL victories as a player and as a coach: “It’s different. But everything is magnificent. As a coach, we are responsible. For 25 players, but not only. For a club too, with a name like Real Madrid, for an institution. It’s a burden huge that you don’t wear the same way as a player. When you win it, plus three times in a row, it’s a great and deep feeling of accomplishment around you and for a whole club. Winning the Champions , it’s never luck. It’s hard work. Especially three times in a row. I worked like crazy. We worked a lot. My players believed in me; I believed in them. We put it together. It’s a lot of work with my staff.”
Was he surprised to win the UCL so quickly as a coach: “No. Because when I do something, it’s to win. I’m a winner, unpretentious. I live to win. Otherwise, I don’t. We don’t always win, but I do everything for it. When I win, I’m not surprised because I gave everything. I worked. And when you work, you have the right to be rewarded. When you gave everything, when you did everything, victory is as beautiful on penalties, as against Atlético for this first final, as the 3-1 against Juventus Turin in 2017 or the 4-1 against Liverpool in 2018. The reward comes from hard work. say that you deserve them. The victory against Juve, our second half, was also exceptional. Against Liverpool, we come out of a complicated Championship but it is the apotheosis against them. This success proved all the resources of ‘a team, a club, a group that has always refused to let go.
What remains for him to accomplish? “Continue to train. I still want to. And afterwards, why not be in a project in which I myself am the leader.”
And coach, before? “I want to, of course. I will be, I hope, one day. When? It’s not up to me. But I want to come full circle with the France team. I have I knew this French team as a player. And it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me! But really! It’s the pinnacle. And so, as I experienced that and today I’m coach, the France team is firmly rooted in my head.”
Coach PSG: “Never say never. Especially when you’re a coach these days. But the question is moot. It’s absolutely not relevant. When I was a player I had a choice, almost every club Coach, there aren’t fifty clubs I can go to. There are two or three possibilities. That’s the current reality. Coach, we have much less choice than player. If I go back to a club, it’s “It’s to win. I say that in all modesty. That’s why I can’t go anywhere. For other reasons, too, I might not be able to go everywhere.”
His headbutt on Marco Materazzi: “That day, my mum is very tired. I have my sister on the phone several times during the day. I know that my mum is not well but it’s not very serious either. It concerns me nevertheless. I still remain focused. But these are things that jostle each other. The pressure, this, that. (Materazzi), he does not speak to me of my mother. He often said he didn’t insult my mother. It’s true. But he insulted my sister, who was with my mom at the time. On a field, there have already been insults. Everyone talks to each other, sometimes badly, but you do nothing. There, that day, what happened happened. He triggered something by talking about my sister Lila. The space of a second, and it’s gone… But afterwards, you have to accept. I’m not proud but it’s part of my journey. At that time, I was more fragile. Sometimes it’s times like these that you can do something wrong…”
Coaching stars like Cristiano and Benzema: “It helps to have lived their thing. But above all, you must not want to be more than them. You are the coach, no problem. You are the one who dictates the route but, on the other hand, he You mustn’t bother them. They are the ones who make the difference on the pitch. And on that, I have no ego. I have experienced these situations with a lot of coaches or players who wanted to be more than the others. At some point, it just doesn’t work.”
His relationship with Benzema: “There is affection. Karim is like the little brother I didn’t have. I’m the last of the family. Our relationship went crescendo. We got to know each other when he arrived in Madrid, that I was adviser to the president then second to Carlo. There, we see each other a little less. We send each other messages. But he knows where I am. I know where he is.
The Ballon d’Or for Benzema: “It’s not just me saying give it to him, it’s the whole world! It’s more than worth it.”
His Champions League-Liga double in 2017: “It’s strong because it’s harder. It’s fantastic to win the Champions League. But the hardest and most beautiful thing after a whole season is to win La Liga. When you do 38 days and that you are champion, it’s fabulous. The Champions League is prestigious, many prefer to win it, but the difficulty of La Liga makes it even more magnificent. It rewards daily life, the preparation for each match, for each training session. The Champions League is 13 games with the intensity going crescendo. The players are there and even more in the big knockout matches. But La Liga, you have to be in it all the time. So the two , the double as in 2017, it’s huge.”
His typical team of players he coached at Real: “I can’t make any special case. Me, anyway, I really took more pleasure in training. The match was not really fun because there was the sentence. C It’s weird to say. We’re more in the action, there’s pressure, we’re on the players. I’ve always gained height but the match before, during, it’s still hot. training, it was just exceptional with these players. The pleasure was really there. I enjoyed seeing the little games, Modric, Benzema, Kroos, one touch. The 2016-2017 season, in training, I had a headache to make the team! The 22-23 players who trained, they could all play. We knew there were 7-8-9, but for the last two, it was very difficult. I said to myself: “You saw him, the week he had.” The choices were hot. This is the coach’s difficulty: making choices. But that’s the job.”