MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid president Florentino Perez appears to have unwittingly taken a leaf out of the book of his club’s arch-rivals Barcelona by appointing Zinedine Zidane as coach.
Barcelona enjoyed huge success, firstly under Pep Guardiola and now Luis Enrique, two former players who had relatively little coaching experience when they were appointed.
Guardiola had not managed at senior level before he was named as coach in 2008 for a four-year stint in which his side won three La Liga, two Spanish Cup and two Champions League titles.
Luis Enrique had struggled through one season with AS Roma and had a respectable year with Celta Vigo before being appointed by Barcelona in 2014. He won the treble at his first attempt.
Real have gone down the same path by naming Zidane, who spent five seasons playing for the club and was previously coach of the B team who are in the third tier of Spanish football.
However, it remains highly questionable as to whether Zidane can emulate the success of their bitter rivals in such a volatile environment.
In two stints as president totalling around 12 years, Perez has employed 10 coaches and only seven have lasted a year or more.
Even those who brought success, such as Carlo Ancelotti and Vicente del Bosque, were ruthlessly dispensed with by Perez.
Zidane may find that his successful spell as a Real player may not necessarily help his cause either as AC Milan have shown with their treatment of Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi.
Both were given the coaching role at the seven-times European champions thanks to their distinguished playing careers in Milan, yet Seedorf was fired after six months and Inzaghi after one year.
Zidane, one of the most skilful and stylish midfielders to play the game, has been influenced by Ancelotti, former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa and Guardiola.
The Frenchman studied Bielsa’s training techniques when the eccentric Argentine was at Olympique Marseille and has watched Guardiola at work with Bayern Munich.
Zidane’s appointment was greeted with plenty of scepticism by Mundo Deportivo, the Barcelona-based sports daily.
It was gleefully pointed out that Zidane was received 14 red cards during his playing career, under the headline “The Hero of the Ninth (Champions League title) was not such an angel.”
Two of those red cards came against Deportivo La Coruna, who will be Real’s opponents in his first match in charge on Saturday.
Another video on the website showed Zidane pushing Luis Enrique in the chest and in the face, leading to a flare-up in a heated Barcelona-Real Madrid Clasico in 2003.
There was also a video entitled “the day that Zidane admitted he was a Barca fan” in which a young Zidane, speaking in French, listed Juventus and the Catalans as his favourite teams.
“It appears that Florentino Perez wants to imitate Barcelona and he wants the Frenchman to be his own Pep Guardiola,” wrote Francesc Aguilar in the same newspaper in a column entitled “Please stay, Florentino.”
“But he forgets one basic thing which is that Pep was considered a coach even in his playing days. He has it in his blood, which is blue and deep red.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne. editing by Ed Osmond)