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Zidane; The End of the Real Madrid Banter Era

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On Wednesday night, Zinedine Zidane won his 7th trophy as the Manager of Real Madrid Football Club after defeating arch-rivals Barcelona 2-0 on the night at the Santiago Bernabeu and 5-1 on aggregate.
This is an incredible feat because the former world player of the year only took charge of affairs at the Los Blancos after Rafa Benitez was fired by club president on the 4th of January 2016.

The French man who was then manager of the ‘B’ team; Real Madrid Castilla was promoted to First team Manager and that decision is starting to look like the best that the Club President, Fiorentino Perez has ever made as Real Madrid has enjoyed more success in the twenty months of Zidane era than they have in the last ten years.
The Pep Guardiola effect; a term named after the former Barcelona player and manager used to describe the appointment of a former club player who has in-depth knowledge of the club and its tradition as the Manager. Pep Guardiola was appointed as the manager of Barcelona at the start of 08/09 season and led the team to the first treble ever won by a Spanish side after only nine months.

His immediate success was attributed to the exceptional individual performances of his players such as the incredible Lionel Messi, the experience, calm control of Xavi Hernandez in the midfield and the unpredictability of Andres Iniesta. However, the managerial genius of Pep could not go unnoticed as he made several important tactical decisions in games. He also promoted Pedro Rodriguez and Sergio Busquets from the Barcelona B that he managed before replacing Frank Rijkaard as head coach.

The success that Guardiola enjoyed in his first season led many to believe that having a former player with the traditions of the club in his DNA would increase the chances of success. This “Pep Effect” led to the appointment of Clarence Seedorf and Filipo Inzaghi at AC Milan, Antonio Conte at Juventus, Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, Luis Enrique at Barcelona and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. All these managers (except Seedorf and Inzaghi) enjoyed considerable success as managers of these club but Zidane has proved himself to be the cream of the crop.

In November 2010, Zidane was appointed as a special adviser to Real Madrid’s first team in response to an appeal made by then-Real Madrid coach José Mourinho for the former Real midfielder to work more closely with the team. In his new role, Zidane was expected to participate in Champions League events and functions and was also to travel with the first team on a regular basis and participate in pre-match gatherings, training sessions and meetings with the head coach.
In July 2011, it was announced that he would become Real Madrid’s new sporting director. In 2013, Zidane was appointed assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid. In June 2014, the club announced that Zidane will become the first team coach of Real Madrid’s B team, Real Madrid Castilla.
On 4 January 2016, Real Madrid announced the dismissal of manager Rafael Bemitez and on the same day Zidane was appointed the new manager of the club on a two and a half year deal.
Zidane took over the second half of a season that started in an embarrassing fashion. The club was performing poorly in the league and they had been disqualified from the Spanish Cup because the Benitez has included a player that was suspended in the match day squad. Zidane started a revival in the club and they ended up only one point behind eventual league winners Barcelona. The only trophy that could salvage the season was the Uefa Champions league that they won in 2014 for the first time in 12 years.

Zidane led the team to success in Milan by defeating City rivals; Atletico Madrid on penalties thereby joining the exclusive list of individuals who have won the Champions League as player and manager for the same football club. He then settled in for his first full season as manager of the club and Real Madrid went on to win the Uefa Super cup and the Club World Cup later in the year.
Zidane silenced his critics by setting his team up to play an exclusive style of football that was extremely pleasing to the eyes. His team went on to set a new unbeaten record after going 40 games without losing a game.
They also scored in almost every football match they played as they finally won the elusive Spanish League title for only the second time in 10 years. This was even more impressive because the team did not only rely on the world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo for goals.
Zidane set up the team in a way that improved and pronounced the talents of other players including Spanish youngsters Isco, Asensio, Vasquez and Alvaro Morata who was signed back from Juventus. Gareth Bale, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric also played pivotal roles in the team on their way to the title.
The league title was not the only trophy brought back to the Madrid Capital as Zidane and the Los Blancos went on to make history as the first team to win the UEFA Champions League for two consecutive years. Cristiano Ronaldo put in an outstanding performance in the knockout stages as he got multiple goals against Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and a brace in the final against Juventus in Cardiff who had conceded only three goals from open play before the final.
The rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona has been regarded as one of the fiercest in club football and over the years Barcelona had edged their rivals in white. The match known as “El Grand Clasico” reached its climax between 2010 and 2013 when Jose Mourinho was at the helm in Madrid and Pep Guardiola was at Barcelona. The fixture has since been used to test the credentials of the subsequent managers of both clubs.

Zidane won his first “clasico” as manager at the Camp Nou, drew the next one and lost in a dramatic match at the Bernabeu last season. The game ended with 3-2 scoreline and saw a Madrid player sent off, a late equalizer and a delightful goal from Lionel Messi that drew out an iconic celebration from the brilliant Argentine much to the anger of the home fans.
The 2017 Supercopa Espana thus was a fresh opportunity to defeat the arch-rivals in a cup final played over two legs. The Catalonian giants had just sold Neymar Jr. to French giants Paris Saint German and had not yet signed a player close in ability to replace the Brazilian. They were still led out by Lionel Messi who on his own can turn a game on its head.

However, such was Zidane’s confidence that he started the game with the club’s greatest ever goal scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. The first leg at the Nou Camp started with a boring first half in which both sides failed to score a goal.
The second half started with both teams being more expressive in their style of play probably due to the team talks at half time. Soon, Madrid got on the score sheet after Pique deflected a cross from Marcelo into his own net.
El Clasico is often punctuated with controversies so it was no shock when Luis Suarez went down in the box after allegedly coming in contact with the Madrid goalkeeper Kaylor Navas. Lionel Messi dispatched the resulting penalty with ease and tied the game 1-1 with less than ten minutes to play.
Cristiano Ronaldo then restored the lead with a stunning cracker of a shot from the edge of the box. He was played in by a teammate as Madrid broke free on the counter. He then pulled the ball back and turned the Barcelona defender, Pique inside out before he curled the shot past Ter Stegen.

 

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The game however ended sorely for the Portuguese attacker as he was given a second yellow for an alleged dive in the box. He had just received the first caution after removing his shirt in celebration of his goal a few minutes earlier. He protested the caution and shoved the referee which led to the Spanish FA banning him for five extra games.

 

Madrid were a goal ahead and a man down but did not put their head down as Marco Asensio drilled a shot from outside the box to the top corner with his left foot to double the lead of the men from Madrid. The first leg ended 3-1 and gave Madrid a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg that would be played in front of their own fans.

 

The second leg of the Supercopa Espana saw Zidane name Lucas Vasquez, Varane, Kovacic and Marco Asensio in the starting line up. This came as a bit of a surprise as Ronaldo was unavailable due to suspension but Gareth Bale, Isco and Casemiro who played important roles in their European Super Cup victory over Manchester United a week ago could only start on the bench.
However, the players selected did not disappoint as it took less than five minutes before Marco Asensio found the top corner again leaving the Barcelona keeper Ter Stegen flat footed for the second time in two games. Karim Benzema ended the rout with a fine finish from close range before the end of the first half making Real Madrid winners 5-1 on aggregate.
Zinedine Zidane has not only brought a winning mentality into this Madrid Squad but he is also finding a way to win comfortably without the services of talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. The 31 year old striker should be considering retirement and it is a remarkable feat that he is still at the top of his game now. Whenever he decides to retire, Real Madrid seem like they would do just fine without him.

With Marco Asensio, Lucas Vasquez, Kovacic, Nacho, Varane all under the age of 24 and the possible arrival of French starlet Kylian Mbappe this summer or the next. It is safe to say that Zinedine Zidane has brought back the glory days that Real Madrid were once very famous for.

The banter era is over.
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