JOHANNESBURG – Whether Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid win or lose the Uefa Champions League tonight against Juventus is immaterial, the bottom line is the Frenchman will go down in history as a rare football animal that completed both tasks; first as a player of note and then a shrewd coach.
Very few top players have gone the route of coaching after their playing days and achieve the same success they had during their playing days.
But one Zidane is living that dream, imparting to his charges what he used to do during his iconic playing days.
Since taking over as Real Madrid coach after serving his apprentice under Carlo Ancelotti, Zizou has had a dream start as the coach; winning the Champions League last year in his first season with Madrid.
After sealing the LaLiga title last month, Zidane can complete a historic double by retaining the Champions League title, something that has never happened in the tournament’s history.
Now here is one player who is defying the football norm that you can’t be the best in all forms of football — playing and coaching.
The likes of Maradona and Pele tried without much success but Zidane, considered one of the best players of all time is showing the world that history can repeat itself.
Madrid has been the most inform side throughout Europe and at the pace they are going, will take some beating even against the immovable Juventus defence. Led by Portuguese great Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid are in irresistible form and favourites to win this one.
And it’s all pointing to the 45-year-old Zidane who was born of Algerian immigrant workers but opted to play for his adopted country.
To say he has done a wonderful job for Madrid, is an understatement. He has transformed the capital side into the most-feared side in Europe if not the whole world.
Just for history’s sake, Zidane single-handedly led France to winning the Fifa World Cup in 1998 with his two great headers, something that catapulted him to stardom around the world.
Having played for Bordeaux for most of his youth, Zidane moved to Italian giants Juventus where he won two league titles.
It was while he was in Turin that he developed into a player with elegance, vision, ball control and great technique forcing some commentators to argue he was probably the greatest midfielder ever.
In 2001, he was transferred from the Turin side to Real Madrid for the then record 75 million Euros and instantly became a favourite with Madrid supporters around the globe.
He won the La Liga and Champions League title and his left-foot volleyed winner in the final against Juventus in 2002 is still considered one of the greatest goals in the Champions League history.
He was voted the best player in 1998, 2000 and 2003 and was also a Ballon d’Or winner in 1998.
If Madrid overcomes Juventus as per most bookmakers’ prediction, Zidane will have been engaged in most Champions League encounters both as a player and manager — a rare feat for any footballer.
Ironically, what stands in the path of the great French is his former club Juventus. If history is to happen to Zidane, it could not have happened to a greater human being.
Football fans around the world idolise Zidane!