PETE JENSON: Zinedine Zidane understands the great players because he was and would have dressing room generals in Ronaldo, Pogba and Varane … but it is a myth that Real Madrid football entertained with him
- Zinedine Zidane is one of the names most linked to Man United
- The Frenchman won numerous national and European awards with Real Madrid
- Zidane has been out of management since leaving Madrid for the second time
- At Old Trafford he could trust family generals Ronaldo and Varane
It was a common occurrence at Real Madrid’s training ground during his first stint as a coach: Zinedine Zidane shoved balls into the box and Cristiano Ronaldo fired them.
Just as common were his talks with Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric. Zidane won two leagues and three European Cups in two terms at the club and the success was based on the closer relationship with the best players on the team.
Having been a great player himself, he understood them. It was the chemistry that brought in trophies rather than big tactical projects or one-on-one work to improve the squad’s minor lights.
Zinedine Zidane is now one of the names most linked to Man United
That should not belittle what you accomplished. As former Madrid player Predrag Mijatovic once said: “You can only call a Champions League winner lucky once.” Zidane won it three times.
But it was a success thanks to strong personalities – his own and those he made leaders of the locker room – as opposed to season-by-season reinvention or even playing-time intervention to change games.
Success at Manchester United would depend on how well you could repeat it. In Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane, he would surely have one of his generals in each line of the team.
Zidane is well versed in working with Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane and could rely on the pair as his generals at Old Trafford.
One of the reasons he left Real Madrid the first time is that he understood that the club was selling Ronaldo. He urged Real Madrid to sign Paul Pogba on several occasions, first in 2016.
His relationship with Raphael Varane dates back to 2011 when he called to persuade him to join the club rather than move to Old Trafford.
One thing that Zidane never really brought to Madrid’s work was a noticeable improvement in young players.
His failure in the development of 21-year-old Brazilian Vinicius and 20-year-old compatriot Rodrygo has been exposed by Carlo Ancelotti, who has made both of them first-team starters this season.
Zidane’s failure to develop players like Rodrygo has been highlighted by Carlo Ancelotti
And it is also a myth that Madrid football was tempting with Zidane.
With his tailored suit on the touchline, he was sometimes the fanciest of them, especially when they won the league in the 2019-20 season.
They have won 10 of their last 11 games, but six of those wins were by a one-goal lead with three 1-0 wins included. The flash of silverware at the end of the season made up for the dazzling displays on the road to the title.