Thursday, 5 May 2016



By Ben Hayward

The Frenchman has overseen a notable
improvement in La Liga and in Europe since
the sacking of Benitez and Real's march to
the Milan showpiece is vindication for
Florentino Perez

The " Zidane effect" is a reality after all. The
Frenchman took over at Real Madrid in
January with no top-level coaching
experience and initial impressions were
mixed, but he has now led Los Blancos to the
Champions League final. The gamble for
Florentino Perez has well and truly paid off.
In his first few weeks in charge, the players
appeared happier and all spoke of how the
team was more unified under Zidane. Pepe
even said that the 1998 World Cup star would
go on to become one of the best coaches in
the world.
However, there were ups and downs. Big
wins at home early on in his reign were
similar to results attained by Benitez, while
Madrid struggled away and the loss to
Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu in late
February raised serious doubts all over again.
Since then, though, he has shown that he is
an upgrade on Rafa. The 2-1 win in the
Clasico at Camp Nou was a big boost, ending
Barcelona's 39-match unbeaten streak and
also reopening the title race as the Catalans
subsequently suffered a dip in form.
Days later, Madrid lost 2-0 at Wolfsburg, but
that only made Zidane more determined. "I
love a difficult challenge," he said. And his
side won the second match 3-0 to turn the
tie around and make the last four. Now, with
a narrow victory over Manchester City, they
are in the final and his influence cannot be
Under Benitez, Real managed an extremely
fortuitous win over Paris Saint-Germain in the
group stages, but were desperately
disappointing against the top teams and were
made to look ludicrous by Barca in their 4-0
Clasico loss at the Santiago Bernabeu. Four
was bad enough, but it could easily have
been five or six.
While Rafa was defensive and far too
negative, Zidane is a breath of fresh air in
press conferences and much happier in
dialogue with his players, supporting them
instead of the awkward remarks made by the
Spaniard which upset many members .The vast spaces between midfield and
attack in the Clasico humiliation have been
evident at times, but the team works much
better now as a unit and even Gareth Bale,
Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have
been tracking back and helping out
defensively in the biggest games.

Ronaldo's return to form has been noticeable
since the arrival of Zizou. With Benitez, the
relationship was never smooth and under
Zidane, the Portuguese has been scoring in
big games (against Barcelona, Roma home
and away, his hat-trick at home to
Wolfsburg) - something he had not managed
in the first half of the campaign with the
current Newcastle boss in charge.
The atmosphere has improved and with it, the
performances are better. Results have
followed and even though Madrid may have
peaked too late to win La Liga, they now
have a shot at claiming the Champions
League. And there was no way that would
have happened under Rafa.
Madrid meet city rivals Atletico in the final
for a second time in three years and an
extremely difficult match awaits against
Diego Simeone's side in Milan. Even if Los
Blancos end up losing the showpiece on May
28, however, Zidane has steered this club
back to where they belong - at the top
alongside the very best in Spain and
competing with Europe's elite in the
Champions League.
So despite his lack of coaching experience,
Zidane looks like the right man to take the
club forward. And after hitting the winner to
claim La Novena and assisting Carlo Ancelotti
when Madrid won La Decima, he has a shot
at bringing home La Undecima now
Rafa was never the right man, but Zizou is -
and the "Zidane effect" is a reality after all