Zinedine Zidane can be Real Madrid's answer to Pep Guardiola... but does Rafa Benitez exit pave the way for Gareth Bale to move to Manchester United?
- Zinedine Zidane has replaced Rafael Benitez as Real Madrid manager
- France legend could emulate success of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona
- Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos were not impressed Benitez
- Manchester United target Gareth Bale's future will again be questioned
Zinedine Zidane has finally been given the top job - now it’s time to show he can have the same effect on Real Madrid that Pep Guardiola had on Barcelona.
When Barca gambled on the then 38-year-old back in 2008 it paid off with 14 trophies in four years. Zidane is 43-years-old and has started, much like Guardiola, as coach Real Madrid’s youth team. Now he has to make the same step up.
There are great expectations – there are also doubts. Guardiola won promotion from the third tier with the Barca B-team before taking the reigns of the first team. Zidane failed to guide Real Madrid Castilla to a similar promotion last season and has not been entirely convincing this campaign.
France legend Zinedine Zidane has been named as the new manager of Real Madrid
The former Real Madrid playmaker is unveiled at the bernabeu on Tuesday evening
Real Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw by Valencia at the weekend, leaving them four points off the pace
The World Cup winner has taken over after the sacking of unpopular Rafa Benitez at the Bernabeu
Real Madrid will be hoping that Zidane can follow the same course set by Pep Guardiola at Barcelona
Norweigan wonderkid Martin Odegaard has hardly blossomed in his care and there is no feeling around the former Ballon d’Or and World Cup winner that he has the same gift as Guardiola.
What the Frenchman undoubtedly does have is that star quality that will give him an unquestioned authority in the Real Madrid dressing room, at least from the start. And he will also enjoy the full backing of Real Madrid supporters – a stadium that has booed and whistled the name of Benitez every time it has been announced in recent weeks.
Zidane is loved unanimously by the supporters who will fill the club’s Valdebebas training ground on Tuesday to watch the players train in an open session. That volley in Glasgow in 2002 that gave Real a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen for their ninth Champions League remains one of the greatest moments in the club's history.
Like Guardiola, Zidane, pictured with son Enzo (centre), has earned his coaching experience in the youth set up
The 43-year-old is forever revered in Madrid after the wonder goal that clinched the 2002 Champion League
Guardiola went on to win 14 major trophies with Barcelona before moving on to Bayern Munich
ZIDANE PLAYING HONOURS
Serie A: 1996–97, 1997–98
Italian Super Cup: 1997
UEFA Super Cup: 1996
Intercontinental Cup: 1996
La Liga: 2002–03
Spanish Super Cu: 2001, 2003
UEFA Champions League: 2001–02
UEFA Super Cup: 2002
Intercontinental Cup: 2002
GUARDIOLA PLAYING HONOURS
La Liga: 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1997–98, 1998–99
Copa del Rey: 1996–97, 1997–98
Spanish Super Cup: 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996
European Cup: 1991–92
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: 1996–97
UEFA Super Cup: 1992, 1997
Argentine midfielder Santiago Solari was in the team that night and he will be alongside Zidane as his No 2 when he takes over for Sunday’s opening game against Deportivo.
He returned to the club in 2014 and – dodging a scandal over not having the correct coaching badges in his first season – he established himself without achieving the aim of getting the Castilla second string back into the Spanish second division.
Directors at Real Madrid are hoping that because the two jobs are so different in nature, his underwhelming performance as B-team boss will have little bearing on how well he does coaching the superstars.
Some of the first team players will be pleased at the change. There is a good relationship with Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane and his appointment may well grease the cogs of a Paul Pogba switch from Juventus in the summer. Sergio Ramos is another who will welcome the change having never accepted the appointment of Benitez.
Creative players including James Rodriguez never fully adapted to Benitez's playing style
BALE LAST SIX GAMES UNDER BENITEZ
November 29 vs Eibar (W) GOAL
December 5 vs Getafe (W) GOAL
December 13 vs Villarreal (L)
December 20 vs Ray Vallecano (W) 4 GOALS
December 30 vs Real Madrid (W)
January 3 vs Valencia (D) GOAL
6 GAMES: 7 GOALS
Cristiano Ronaldo was, much like Ramos, unhappy at the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season and will also welcome Zidane. James Rodriguez never took to Benitez’ style of man-management and attacking midfielder Isco has not played any part in the last two matches after breaching discipline by laughing on the bench after Madrid had conceded against Rayo Vallecano so those two will also be pleased at the change.
But not everyone will be happy. Gareth Bale was enjoying working under Benitez. The Welsman has been outstanding in his last three matches – no one has pulled out more stops to save the former Liverpool manager’s job.
Bale’s header at Mestalla on Sunday night gave 10-man Real Madrid the lead against Gary Neville’s Valencia and that should have meant the visitors took all three points. Real Madrid would have moved level with Barcelona in the league and it would have been very hard to sack Benitez. But Real Madrid conceded immediately and Benitez fate was all but sealed.
Gareth Bale has been in fine form under Benitez, but the Spaniard's exit could cast doubt over his future
The Welshman, pictured scoring his ninth goal of the season, has long been admired by Manchester United
What now remains to be seen is how Zidane uses Bale. The former Tottenham midfielder remains the man president Florentino Perez wants to build a new, post-Ronaldo Madrid around but Zidane may have other ideas and, at least at the start of his reign, he will have the authority to do as he pleases.
This is will be the third coach in Bale’s short Real Madrid career and if things do not go well Manchester United may well find that he becomes a far more gettable target this summer.
His future will, like Real Madrid’s prospects in La Liga and the Champions League, depend on how effectively Zidane can take the stardust he had as a player and spread it over the training ground, the tactics board and the technical area at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Zidane watches down the touchline during a Real Madrid Castilla match in Segunda 2
Zidane, pictured with his family, is facing the prospect of being as effective a manager as he was a player