Zinedine Zidane may never have been hired as Real Madrid coach but for the success of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, but it is Guardiola who now must follow the Frenchman’s example to complete his mission at Manchester City.
Zidane’s Real travel to Manchester on Friday looking to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit from February as the Champions League resumes after a five-month coronavirus shutdown.
Much has changed since the sides last met.
Then under pressure, Zidane, in his second spell in charge at the Bernabeu, has again interrupted Barca’s dominance of La Liga with a run of 10 straight victories after Spanish football’s return in June to take the title.
Even for the club where Champions League success matters more than anything else, the pressure is off Real as Zidane looks to protect his perfect record in the competition as a coach.
Three times he led Real to Champions League glory in his first spell in charge between 2016 and 2018 and Zidane is yet to be eliminated from the competition as a coach.
“When he has done what he has done, winning three Champions Leagues in a row, taking two La Liga titles from Barca when they – in this decade – have dominated this competition like no other club, it shows his ability,” Guardiola told DAZN.
“Although people may not believe me because he is from Real Madrid, I am very happy that things are going well because it is very good for football that things go well for people like him.”
Guardiola won 14 trophies in four seasons at the Camp Nou between 2008 and 2012, including two Champions Leagues.
League titles and cups have continued to flow for Guardiola at Bayern Munich and in Manchester, but he has not tasted success in Europe’s elite club competition since 2011.
Despite winning two Premier League titles among six major trophies since arriving in England, Guardiola admitted earlier this season his time at City would be judged “a failure” if he did not win the Champions League.
Finishing the job against Real would be a major milestone as City’s first knockout victory against a former winner in nine seasons in the Champions League.
Zidane has repeatedly stated his belief that Guardiola is “the best coach in the world”.
But after finishing 18 points behind Liverpool in the Premier League this season, it is the former Barca ball boy, player and manager who needs to do what Real have made a habit of – transforming miserable domestic seasons into memorable Champions League triumphs. Source: AFP