Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will be reunited with his former mentor and kindred spirit Carlo Ancelotti when the Spanish club visit Bayern Munich for their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday.
Zidane first played under Ancelotti when the Italian took charge of Juventus in 1999, with the Frenchman flourishing as a playmaker before making a then-world record 75 million euro ($79.51 million) move to join the Galacticos of Real in 2001.
That same summer, Ancelotti left Juve to embark on a trophy-laden era at AC Milan. Twelve years later, he took the top job at Real, naming Zidane, who retired as a player after the 2006 World Cup, as one of his assistants.
In their one season together in the dugout, Ancelotti and Zidane led Real in 2014 to a memorable 4-0 thrashing of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in a Champions League semi-final match at the Allianz Arena, making the Munich stadium a fitting setting for their reunion.
Real went on that year to end the club’s 12-year drought in Europe’s elite competition by beating Atletico Madrid in extra-time in the final and lift a coveted 10th European Cup, after which Zidane took charge of the reserve team.
Ancelotti was, though, given a brutal reminder of the short lifespan of Real coaches when he was sacked a year later after a season void of silverware.
He was replaced by Rafa Benitez who only lasted seven months in the job before Zidane was named coach, galvanising a squad that had become disenchanted under the Spaniard and displaying Ancelotti’s ability to heal dressing room wounds.
Known affectionately as Zizou, Zidane won the Champions League little more than four months after taking the job.
“WHAT COUNTS ARE TROPHIES”
Both Ancelotti and Zidane made history at Real. Ancelotti oversaw a 22-game winning streak in all competitions, a record in Spanish soccer, while Zidane lead Real to a 40-game unbeaten run in all competitions, also a Spanish record.
Having witnessed Ancelotti’s sacking at the Bernabeu, Zidane is aware how ruthless the club’s hierarchy can be. Even though Real sit three points clear at the top of La Liga with a game in hand, he said last Friday his long-term position at the club was far from safe.
“I’m not certain I’m going to continue here, not at all, and that’s why I’m not preparing anything, I’m working for what I have left to do this season,” he said.
“I know what it’s like to coach Real Madrid for better or worse and I’m prepared for everything.”
Zidane has been criticised in some quarters of the Spanish media for Real’s stale style of play in spite of his achievements and his tactical nous was questioned after his side conceded an 85th minute equaliser to draw 1-1 with Atletico on Saturday.
The coach received the backing of midfielder Toni Kroos on Monday, with the German telling the club’s official website (www.realmadrid.com): “He has had a huge impact here, he brought positivity when he arrived and took us in a new direction.”
Captain Sergio Ramos also declared his admiration for the coach, but warned Zidane could meet a similar fate to Ancelotti if Real do not end the season clutching trophies.
“I like Zidane for the results he has got and for how he manages the dressing room,” Ramos told reporters on Saturday.
“But in football what counts are results and trophies.”