By Aristo Dotse

Last year Zidane Zidane became one of the few elites to win the European Champions Cup or Champions League as both players and coaches. In leading Real Madrid to penalty shootout victory over city rivals Atletico Madrid in Milan a year ago, he joined the likes of Miguel Munoz, Giovanni Trapatonni, Johan Cruyff, Carlo Ancelloti, Frank Rijkaard and Joseph Guardiola on that exclusive podium of European club football.

That was 19 years after he lost his second (and successive) Champions League final as a player, with Juventus, against Real Madrid, the team he coaches now, in Amsterdam. Now, ironically, his second European Cup final, also successively, as a coach and both with Real, is against his own Juve in Cardiff on Saturday, June 3.

So it seems this year’s final has in the big picture a certain Zidane, who only a few days ago won his first league title as coach for Real Madrid’s first title since 2012 – a feat he surprisingly describes as the best of his professional life, after all he has achieved as a player and coach. The 44-year-old calm but hard-nut man lost that successive second final as a player with Juventus to his now-coaching Real in 1998; so will he lose his second successive final as coach this year to his former playing-club Juve?

Zidane who was the genius of a player – one of the greatest of all-time – is now the genius of a coach who has already done a few great things in his brief coaching career, having won the Champions League in his first season (in fact half season as he replaced the sacked Rafa Benitez in December 2015) last year and winning the European Super Cup, FIFA World Club Cup and La Liga and reaching the Champions League final in his first full season this term.

In guiding Real to all these remarkable successes, the French-born of Algerian origin and who is the greatest pseudo African player in history (ahead of the likes of Eusebio, Mario Coluna, Marcel Desailly and co.) achieved some rare feats in the process, including setting a very remarkable 40-match Spanish unbeaten record in all competitions for Real Madrid to better Barcelona’s then record of 39 matches unbeaten.

Now the former Real Madrid ‘Galatico’ favourite and one-time Champions League-winning player, who scored Madrid’s winner against Bayer Leverkusen with one of the best goals seen in a European Cup final in another British city – Glasgow – in 2002, is looking to do more special things in Cardiff. ‘Zizou’, as Zidane is affectionately called, has the chance to make history at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in a few days to come. He has the chance to become the first to win the prestigious trophy as player and back-to-back as coach, and also the only former player to achieve that back-to-back Champions League feat.

But it all depends on what happens at the Millennium Stadium where his former club Juventus and Massimiliano Allegri’s strong side, who brushed aside Real Madrid’s bitter rivals Barcelona in the quarter-final, stand in his way and history. Allegri’s team, which have the most wins (nine) and best defensive record (three goals) oin 12 matches in this season’s Champions League, is almost the same Juve side that overcame Real Madrid in the 2015 semi-finals before losing to Barca in the final in Berlin.

Thus Zidane – the three-time Champions League finalist as player and 2002 Champions League final best player – with his top-scoring side in this season’s campaign (32 goals in eight wins from 12 matches) will eye revenge for Real in the bid to make history of his own as the first coach to retain the trophy since it became the Champions League.

Coaches who have gone close to winning the Champions League in successive seasons are Fabio Cappello, who led AC Milan to three back-to-back finals, winning in 1994 and losing in 1993 and 1995; Louis van Gaal (winner and loser with Ajax in the final in 1995 and 1996 respectively); Marcelo Lippi (three straight finals with Juventus in 1996, 1997 and 1998, with only victory in ‘96,); and Alex Ferguson (who lost the 2009 final after winning a year earlier, both with Manchester United).

The last coach to win successive European Champions Cups, before it became the Champions League in 1992, was the Italian Arrigo Saachi who took that great AC Milan team – of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Carlo Ancelloti, Franco Baresi and co. – to back-to-back victories in 1989 and 1990.

Coaches who had earlier won the Champions Cup successively include Bela Guttmann, who took Benfica to the titles of 1961 and 1962; Helenio Herrera, of Inter Milan’s victories in 1964 and 1965; Dettmar Crammer, coach of Bayern Munich’s successes of 1975 and 1976; Bob Paisley (who is still the only one to win it three times, all with Liverpool) in 1977 and 1978; and Brian Clough, winner with Nottingham Forest in 1979 and 1980.

Credit: Soccernet newspaper