Media sceptic over Zidane

MADRID. — Spanish media expressed scepticism yesterday about the prospects for football hero Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid coach after his sensational appointment. All said that Real president Florentino Perez was taking a risk naming the French World Cup “legend” who has no experience running a team of superstars. Perez announced on Monday that the three-time world player of the year would take over from Rafael Benitez, who was sacked after just seven months struggling to win over Madrid’s fans and leading players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos.

“The problem of coaches is like that of melons: until you open them you don’t know if they are sweet or inedible,” wrote the Marca sports daily — the most read in Spain. “A risky operation albeit with possibilities,” it added in a separate article.

“The Frenchman is a football legend and a great figure of Madrid,” added Marca “But his coaching experience is inversely proportional to his excellent footballer’s experience — limited . . . and controversial.”

The 43-year-old’s coaching experience has been limited to a season-and-a-half in charge of Madrid’s feeder team Castilla. The team failed to secure promotion from Spanish football’s third tier last season.

El Pais daily also emphasised that Zidane was “a legend without coaching experience.”

Newspapers were nevertheless awed by his superstar status, with his face staring out from the front pages of Spain’s many sports dailies.

“La Soluzzion” headlined Marca.

“Florentino discovers that Benitez was the problem and all of a sudden finds the solution: Zinedine Zidane,” wrote As sports daily. Many dailies were critical of Perez’s management of the club, dubbing him the “shredder of coaches.” Zidane is the 11th coach to be named in Perez’s reign.

And some gave Zidane the benefit of the doubt, pointing to the precedent of Pep Guardiola, a legend as a player who graduated from a season in charge of Barcelona’s B team to become the most successful coach in the club’s history.

“El Guardiola de Florentino,” wrote the Sport daily.

“Finding a ‘Guardiola’ had been the obsession of Florentino Perez for a while, even if it was a risky option.” Meanwhile, Zidane kicked off the first day of his sensational new role with a high-profile training session attended by thousands of applauding fans yesterday.

The three-time world player of the year faces a tough challenge to drag the Spanish club out of its current crisis and back to the heights of success, and prove his ability as a coach. Just hours after the announcement of his nomination, the 43-year-old oversaw his first training session with the club at the small Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Madrid, walking out onto the pitch to the cheers of some 6 000 supporters.

“Zizou, Zizou!” they shouted as he entered, wearing a grey tracksuit and fluorescent shoes. The Frenchman gathered players around him. Then he kicked the ball to start a training exercise, drawing shouts of “hurray”. Zidane replaces Benitez, who struggled to win over both Madrid’s fans and their superstars during his seven months at the helm.

The club has suffered a year-long slump that has seen it burn through two Champions League winning coaches, see eternal rivals Barcelona win the treble and suffer the embarrassment of several off-field scandals.

Zidane has his work cut out, with Spain’s many sports dailies pointing to his lack of coaching experience.

So far, this experience has been limited to 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 the deputy of Carlo Ancelotti, who coached Real Madrid in 2013 and 2014.

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

Zidane is preparing his side for his first match as manager, against seventh-place Deportivo la Coruna on Saturday at the Bernabeu, but did not have Gareth Bale in attendance.

Bale was believed to be doing gym work away from the team after sustaining some muscle tweaks in the 2-2 draw with Valencia, in which he scored Madrid’s second.

He was the only senior player not to take part in Zidane’s first session, watched by 6 000 fans.

The Welshman has already been linked with a move away from Madrid, and could potentially head back to England after Benitez’s departure. Martin Odegaard was, however, seen in first-team training.

Former Liverpool, Chelsea and Napoli boss Benitez left Madrid after only seven months in charge, overseeing 25 games and 17 victories. — AFP.

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