Zidane: the Mannequin Challenge winner?
At some point, very soon, we will be talking about Zinedine Zidane the world class manager, as opposed to his glittering playing career.
It may be this week if his team extend their unbeaten run to an incredible 31 games and take a nine-point lead of La Liga by winning ‘El Clásico’ in Barcelona.
When Zidane was first appointed there was understandable cynicism about the club’s president extending the Galáctico culture to his coaching appointments. Was he just a managerial mannequin who would carry out the governor’s instructions at the footballing White House?
Winning the Champions League in just his 27th match as manager was partly attributed to luck and a divine right at Real Madrid.
In the summer Zidane began to fully impose himself, resisting Florentino Pérez’s convention of splashing out on the most expensive player available on the market.
Instead of buying Paul Pogba, he invested his confidence in Casemiro, a player who came through the club system.
Instead of selecting 30-million-euro full-back Danilo, he stuck with another former B teamer, Dani Carvajal.
Instead of selecting Isco and James Rodriguez with combined transfer fees of 110 million euros, he’s often opted for Marcos Asensio and Lucas Vázquez.
We knew Zidane was doing everything his own way when he risked a Ronaldo strop by substituting him in Las Palmas. That almost backfired as the team drew but he stuck to his principles and it forms part of an unbeaten run that stretches back to last February.
Contrast that to Luis Enrique who is having a challenging time at their great rivals Barcelona.
He was thrown a couple of conundrums that don’t come up on the UEFA Pro Licence… Like, what do you do when your Brazilian superstar crashes his 250,000-pound Ferrari on the way to meeting up with the team bus? Or, what do you do when one of your players asks for the weekend off to get married?
Both added to his regular team selection headaches ahead of the journey to San Sebastián last weekend. They may have an effect on the team who were, in the manager’s words, lucky to get a draw against Real Sociedad.
At the moment it is a complete reversal of fortunes with Real Madrid getting praised for promoting players from the Castilla side and Barcelona getting questioned about their rash signings.
The Barça boss recruited players to bolster his squad in the summer but generally it has been money poorly spent. In particular, the 70 million euros they paid Valencia for Paco Álcacer and André Gomes looks to be misjudged.
The famous pipeline from the La Masia academy appears to be blocked in Catalonia while Zidane has removed any obstructions for developing youngsters in the capital.
Whisper it quietly, but Zidane may be about to emulate Johann Cruyff and prove to be a legendary coach as well as player.source surinenglish