Perhaps you saw Zinedine Zidane’s magnificent glowing bald head in the dugout on Saturday at the Bernabeu or perhaps you were distracted by the dazzling football, but the former Real Madrid legend is now managing the Galacticos and he kicked of his managerial tenure in style with a 5-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna.
With Zidane shirts now outselling all other shirts in the Real Madrid store, and the Real Madrid players back at their irresistible best, I decided to take a look at what Zidane has changed already and what his appointment could mean for the next generation of managers.
One of the factors that contributed to Rafa Benitez’s demise was the fact that the players didn’t respect his authority as he never played at the highest level. How could Rafa tell Cristiano Ronaldo how to take free kicks in training and expect his opinion to be taken seriously? Thus he received the joke nickname ‘number 10’ from the squad.
What Zidane brings is real - world-class experience as a number 10 and a natural authority that will be taken seriously. Even the stars of Real Madrid look up to Zidane as a legend of the game and Karim Benzema especially admired the senior Frenchman as his idol.
A big first result:
5-0 at home to Deportivo La Coruna on the face of it seems like the sort of result that Real Madrid would churn out easily, but Deportivo have been no slouches this season and achieved a draw away at Madrid’s huge rivals Barcelona in December. Despite decent opposition, Zidane’s Real managed their biggest win under a new Madrid manager in 57 years.
Benitez upset fans and board members alike with his personnel choices and Zidane must have been well aware of this as he decided to bring back both Isco and James Rodriguez to feature from the start and the bench respectively. Isco certainly had his mojo back and was getting forward whenever possible with ball skills reminiscent of Zidane himself. The fans certainly seemed excited to have the duo back and the atmosphere was far from the toxic scenes in recent weeks.
Zidane also brought back Dani Carvajal in the right back position and the decision paid off as the Spaniard provided the cross for Bale’s first goal and put in the sort of solid all round performance that has often been lacking from Danilo this season.
Gareth Bale was the star of the show in Zidane’s first match and while there’s no denying the Welshman’s disappointment at Benitez’s sacking, Zidane seems keen on maximising Bale’s talent output. The signs are positive and after Bale’s remarkable hat-trick from all sorts of positions it seems likely that the interchangeable nature of the front three will suit Bale enough to keep him happy regardless of where he starts. Bale is the future of Real Madrid and his development under Zidane will be very interesting indeed.
This is what Real Madrid’s official Twitter account tweeted after Zidane had been announced as manager - much to the frustration of Manchester United fans I’m sure: "I want the fans to enjoy themselves every time we play at the Bernabeu." Zidane certainly did not disappoint on this front and expansive, pacey attacking football was on display for the full 90 minutes at the Bernabeu in arguably the first fully comprehensive Real Madrid performance of the season. The belief and enjoyment was back for the players and it showed. Time will tell how long this approach pays off.
The future of management?
There is an increasing culture of former stars taking senior management roles at big clubs nowadays – look at Giggs, Vieira and Neville, to name just a few. Real Madrid have certainly made a bold choice going with Zidane given his lack of top flight managerial experience but one that, should it pay off, will look inspired.
With Gary Neville, Zidane and Vieira now all in management roles, their potential success could inspire a new era of management – former players who know the ins and outs of their club taking over and sharing their experience and insight with the next generation of players.
It remains to be seen if other top clubs will follow suit and this trend catches on in England, but there will now be a lot of interest in Zidane’s success and the conceivable transformations in the landscape of football management.