By Aristo Dotse

After becoming one of the few to win the European Champions Cup or Champions League as a player and coach last year, Real Madrid manager Zidane has gone a notch further on the podium of European club football greats with his side’s victory over Juventus last Saturday in this year’s UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff.

Very remarkably, Zidane – the former Real Madrid ‘Galatico’ player who scored Madrid’s winner against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 final in Glasgow – has become not only the first coach to win two consecutive Champions League trophies, but also the first former player to win the Champions League back-to-back, and the first man to score in a Champions League Final and also win it as a coach.

With this historic triumph, he joined the likes of Jose Villalonga, Luis Carniglia, Bela Guttmann, Helenio Herrara, Dettmar Crammer, Stefan Kovacs, Bob Paisley, Brian Clough and Arrigo Saachi as the only coaches to win the European Cup in successive years, making him one of 15 former players – Carniglia, Guttmann, Crammer, Miguel Munoz, Ernst Happel, Herrera, Stefan Kovacs, Paisley, Clough, Jupp Heynckes, Vicente del Bosque, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Carlo Ancellotti and Joseph Guardiola – to win the Champions Cup or Champions League twice as coaches.

In the process, he equaled two Real Madrid’s club records: held by Jose Villalonga, who gave Real Madrid their first two European Cups (1956, 1957) in his first two seasons as a coach, and by legend Munoz, who won three consecutive European Cup titles with Real as a player in 1956, 1957 and 1958 and then coached them to victories in 1960 and 1966.

Zidane, who lost his second Champions League final as a player for Juventus against Real Madrid – with whom he finally won the competition as a player – and has now won his second Champions League trophy as a coach with the Spanish champions against his former Italian club, has shown his coaching genius in doing some special things in his brief coaching career at the top level after being a playing genius.

Winning two Champions League titles from a total of just 20 matches in one and half seasons as coach is unbelievably something special and brilliantly remarkable. Nothing like it has ever been on earth in the football world, and the former three-time FIFA World Player of the Year and 2006 World Cup Golden Ball winner has every right to revel in it.

Real Madrid’s remarkable 4-1 dismissal of Juventus for their further record twelfth Champions Cup title and third in four seasons brought home not only Zidane’s second Champions League crown, but also his fifth success as coach, to add up to the league title he won this season and the 2016 FIFA World Club Cup last December and 2016 European Super Cup last August.

In winning this season’s competition, Real Madrid scored the highest number of goals (36) in 13 matches and they include the four against Juventus, who prior to the final had conceded the least goals of just three in the entire campaign.

When you also think of the fact that the league tile triumph that was secured with also a 4-1 victory over Malaga on the last day of the league was Real Madrid’s first in five years, you would further appreciate Zidane’s coaching genius and influence on Real Madrid’s recent successes.

Big credit to Zidane – the 2002 Champions League final best player and one of few players to score in two World Cup finals (1998 and 2006) – is that he took over a team seemingly in disarray, without much confidence, after a recent 4-0 dismissal by Barcelona, and has turned them into the strongest side in the world. He has since built a marvelously wonderful team full of talent, in both the first eleven side and on the substitutes’ bench. Aside the usual starting eleven that includes the famous BBC (Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo), substitute players like the expensive James Rodriguez, Isco, new high-flying boy Marco Asensio, Alvaro Morata, Lucas Vasquez, Mateo Kovacic, Danilo, Pepe, Nacho, etc. are all quality players that make Zidane’s team so much thick.

You can’t forget that in guiding Real Madrid to all their remarkable successes, the 44-year-old French-born of Algerian origin and who is the greatest pseudo African player in history took his side through a remarkable Spanish record of 40 matches unbeaten in all competitions to first equal and then beat Barcelona’s then-record of 39 matches unbeaten.

Now, with their Cardiff triumph, Zidane and his side – mainly of first-choice players Keylor Navas, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, Raphael Verane, captain Sergio Ramos, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luca Modric, Isco and the ‘BBC’ trio – have attained greatness and cemented their place in the annals of the 25-year-old Champions League.

Credit: Soccernet newspaper