Zinedine Zidane cut off a nonchalant figure as Real Madrid faced the tough assignment of retaining the Champions League against perhaps the tournament’s most astute defensive side- Juventus.
The first forty-five minutes had everyone at the edge of their seats with an end-to-end half that saw the score leveled 1-1 at the interval.
Real Madrid however unleashed a relentless onslaught in the second half, one that guided them to a 4-1 victory over Massimiliano Allegri’s side; eventually delivering their third Champions League trophy in four years.
Although the Frenchman had served as an assistant under both Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez, the dismissal of the latter and subsequent appointment of Zidane was widely viewed as a knee-jerk reaction in the most unprecedented of ways.
He against all odds guided Real to Champions League victory in Milan last season, despite taking over midway through a turbulent season that preceded the unwelcomed dismissal of Ancelotti.
Real Madrid narrowly missed out on the La Liga to eventual winners Barcelona on his maiden season as manager, but the Spanish giants came back into the reckoning with a victory over Atletico in the Champions League final.
It was however during his full season as manager that Real reached a crescendo. Through completion of the Liga and Champions League double, on top of a UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup sweep, Zinedine Zidane has invariably heralded a new era of dominance in European football.
After winning his third Champions League trophy in a managerial role – his first coming as an apprentice under Carlo Ancelotti – Zidane was keen to stress he is not the best manager in Europe, even when the numbers are heavily inclined in his favor.
Zidane was an exceptional player in his days, but the success attained in such a short stint makes him an even exceptional manager.
He may not be an animated celebrator of goals [Jurgen Klopp], or exhibit maestro-like tendencies when issuing instructions from the touchlines [Pep Guardiola], but the 44-year old has conquered Europe in nearly half the time taken by some of the biggest names in the game – making him a natural winner.
Always about the players
Even after making history by becoming the first manager to win back-to-back Champions League titles, Zidane was evasive of the limelight, choosing instead to be a peripheral figure in the celebrations as he expressed full admiration of his players.
In a star studded side such as Real Madrid, the secret behind their success over the last 18 months has however been Zizou’s ability to galvanize the squad, encouraging players to express their individual qualities as best as they can; in stark contrast to Rafa Benitez whose conservative style stifled creativity.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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