I’m not Pep: Zizou

MADRID. — Zinedine Zidane’s elevation to the first team at Real Madrid has been compared with Pep Guardiola’s rise at Barcelona. But Zidane was quick to play down suggestions there were any similarities with Guardiola’s. After playing for Barca, Guardiola achieved unprecedented success as the club’s manager before leaving to join Bayern Munich. “You shouldn’t make comparisons with me and Guardiola,” insisted Zidane. “He has achieved incredible things.”

Zidane also said yesterday that coaching crisis-hit Real Madrid was going to be tough but exciting, a day after he was appointed at the helm of what he coined “the best team in the world”.

“This is a difficult but stimulating challenge. I want to take up the challenge and do my utmost to win titles,” the Frenchman told reporters at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in the Spanish capital.

Zidane’s appointment as Real Madrid manager has meant plenty of interest at his first news conference in his new role yesterday. One journalist wanted to know what his football philosophy would be.

The 43-year-old former French international replied: “I want to play attacking, balanced football and that’s all.

“The important thing will be to motivate all players. There’s been a change, but Benitez’s job has been good and I wish him luck.

“I will try to bring a personal touch to the team. I want my football to be different, and balanced.”

Zidane, who succeeds Rafael Benitez, becomes the 11th manager to be appointed by Florentino Perez during his 12 years as club president.

“I’m prepared for the challenge that awaits me and l’ll do everything to make sure it goes well,” said Zidane.

“I’m at the best team in the world,” said the Frenchman, who played for the club between 2001 and 2006.

“Our objective is to win. We have two titles that we can win and we will try,” he added in reference to the Champions League and La Liga.

All eyes will now be on whether Zidane has the temperament and tactical ability to gel Madrid’s “Galacticos” into a trophy-winning unit.

Key players such as Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez often showed their disgust when substituted by Benitez.

Off-field distractions also took their toll with Benzema facing blackmail charges over a sex-tape of France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, and Rodriguez accused of speeding at up to 200kph (124mph) last week.

Zidane is not known for his communication skills and had a fiery temperament on the field as a player.

His career ended with an infamous head-butt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy.

But he is respected by Madrid’s players and adored by their fans for his feats on the field, highlighted by his brilliant winner in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen.

Spanish media said, however, that Zidane has his work cut out because of his lack of experience.

“The Frenchman is a football legend and a great figure of Madrid,” wrote Marca, Spain’s most read sports daily.

“But his coaching experience is inversely proportional to his excellent footballer’s experience – limited . . . and controversial.”

He has spent a season and a half in charge of Madrid’s feeder team Castilla, which failed to secure promotion from Spanish football’s third tier last season.

But he has the advantage of knowing the players well – he was Ancelotti’s deputy in 2013 and 2014.

And the team appeared relaxed yesterday, with players all smiles.

Finally, on the subject of players, Zidane shrugged off talk that Gareth Bale might be sold or leave the club following Benitez’s sacking. – BBC Sport.

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