The vindication of ‘El Alineador’: the numbers that support Zidane’s talent on the bench after years of questioning

Zidane, on the bench for El Sadar against Osasuna.

TO Zinedine Zidane all the successes he has achieved with a derogatory name: “It’s an aligner”. Despite having won three Champions League titles in a row with Real Madrid, two Leagues and a total of eleven titles, the Frenchman has never been given enough value, being considered by many fans – and also experts – as a coach who knew how to manage perfectly the group of star players, but who had little tactical knowledge of the game.

Zizou led the white team to proclaim themselves European champion three times in a row, something that had not happened in the Old Continent since the 70s. Real Madrid was also the first team to win the title twice in a row in the Champions era. Despite this, Zidane was never considered a top coach. When it came to talking about ‘the best coach in the world’ during the last decade, names like Pep Guardiola or José Mourinho. Also Jurgen Klopp. The debate featured coaches with a reputation for tactical geniuses such as Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri, motivators like Cholo Simeone, successful as Joaquim Löw and Carlo Ancelotti or others of the new generation such as Thomas tuchel or even Julian Nagelsmann. Zidane never appeared in those conversations.

The successes of Real Madrid were always attributed to some fabulous players (Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Carvajal, RaphaelVarane, Isco, Casemiro, Keylor Navas …) who were directed by a coach who connected very well with them and who was tremendously respected for his past as a footballer, considered one of the five Large of history.

The Frenchman left Real Madrid in 2018 half due to personal wear and tear, half due to not having to face the necessary renewal, but when Florentino Pérez called him, he did not hesitate and returned. In its first full year, with a team with many shortcomings, managed to win the League and the Super Cup. It was a Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo, with Gareth Bale already very far from his best version, Isco out of shape and several key players already very veteran like Luka Modric and Marcelo. In addition, young signings such as Vinícius and Rodrygo were still very green and injuries devastated what should be their star, Eden Hazard. The Frenchman radically changed the philosophy of the team, and the Madridistas went from being a team that went close to hand to hand to winning games thanks to their talented midfield, to dominating with possession and conceding few goals.

This season began with many doubts. There were inexplicable setbacks in the League and in the Champions League it was suffered to qualify. However, every time a big game came around, Real Madrid won. He did it against Barça and Atlético in the League and against Inter Milan de Conte, Calcio’s leader, in Europe to stay alive. Zidane’s slate was imposed again and again, without anyone recognizing it.

The French coach likes to play 4-3-3, but always from flexibility. When the BBC was a devastating trio, it was betting on that system. But when Bale was injured, he changed the drawing for a 4-4-2 that led him to dominate Europe with an iron fist in 2017. That same campaign, he opted for the starters in the Champions League and substitutes in the League, and his model led Real Madrid to the first double in both competitions in their modern history.

In his second stage, not only has the way of playing changed, but also has varied the scheme on several occasions. His system of three centrals and two lanes has worked every time he has, and when everyone expected him to repeat it against Liverpool and Barça, he opted for a 4-3-3 with offensive players.

The ‘eight days of gold’ of an exhausted Madrid and in box have been the great claim of Zidane. His victories against Barça and Liverpool, plus qualification at Anfield, without Ramos, Hazard, Carvajal, Varane or Lucas Vázquez have earned him world recognition. It was time.

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