A napkin given by Florentino Pérez to Zinedine Zidane two decades ago brought the then Juventus footballer closer to Real Madrid to make him his great reference. In 2021, a letter created a wedge between the two. Only time will tell of what dimensions.
At the beginning of the century, the Frenchman was enough with a “oui” (yes) when the president asked him on the sly at a gala in Monaco if he wanted to play at the Bernabéu. This time, the coach needed a detailed letter to explain why he had left the white bench when he still had a year left on his contract. The writing, published in the newspaper ACEIt was a missile to the heart of the meringue dome. The Frenchman lashed out harshly against the club and, by extension, against its top leader, despite mixing it with some words of gratitude to the “president”. The accusations spared no arguments. The laconic Zizou of public appearances untied pen in hand. A head butt to the top.
The coach accused the institution of lack of “memory, confidence and support to build something in the medium and long term”; of “interested leaks” to the media that he was going to be fired if he did not win the next game; and that they came to reproach him for the network of human relationships that he had woven in the locker room. Few escaped his attacks, not even the press, which he criticized for seeking only controversy. Only the fans and their footballers came out well. “Good thing I had some wonderful boys who were to death with me. When things got ugly, they saved me with great victories, ”Zizou said in yet another defense of the dugout.
The letter was like putting a letter to the remembered press conference in early February, prior to the meeting in Huesca (1-2), and which acted as a lever in the team, which no longer lost in the League (13 victories and five ties). At 10 points from Atlético and after overcoming the covid, ZZ returned to the scene and exploded. “Tell me to my face: ‘We want to change you’, not just from behind. Let us fight. Last year the league was won by us. The one who comes is sure that things have to be changed. But this one, leave us. That cry was directed to journalists, but this Monday’s letter expanded the addressees of that complaint to a deferred basis.
Due to the harshness of the message and the significance of the person who launched it, you have to rewind a lot to find an attack of this size against Florentino Pérez from the core of the entity. Of all the stars the president has signed since 2000, no one has represented for him more than Zidane: for his football prowess, his successes on the bench and the two moments in which the Frenchman assumed technical direction. On both occasions, in 2016 and 2019, with sports crises that also affected the institutional. And in the two he reversed the situation on the field, especially in the first with three Champions in a row, but also due to the calming effect that his appearance had. Only his presence anesthetized the atmosphere and served as a crutch for the president.
Underlining the initial gratitude to the “president” for betting on him in 2001 when, as he pointed out, “there were certain people against it,” the rest of the content became a list of accusations. “I would have liked my relationship with the club and with the president in recent months to have been a little different from that of other coaches. He wasn’t asking for privileges, but a little more memory. It hurt a lot when I read in the press, after a loss, that they were going to kick me out if I didn’t win the next game. These intentionally filtered messages created negative interference with the squad, ”argued the coach.
In this second stage, on at least two occasions the possibility of an impeachment was seriously agitated. The first, in autumn 2019, when Mourinho’s name was pushed after a poor start in the Champions League. And the second, in 2020, in the face of fear of not passing the group stage of the Champions League, a cliff that he dodged and, when he did, he warned: “I will never be the Ferguson of Madrid.” It was all he said in that trance. But not now in a complaint that has much to do with the usual instability of the white bench, home to 16 technicians in the last two decades, 13 of them under the presidency of Pérez. The French would have liked a different treatment.
During much of the course, a frequent aspect of lack of harmony between the management and the technician was the management of the young people. While the club had spent a lot of money on promises such as Vinicius, Rodrygo, Militão, Jovic and Brahim, the Frenchman never gave any signs of considering them a priority, beyond the punctual performance of each. Odegaard’s request in January to leave on loan, despite having been claimed by Zidane, exacerbated that gap.
Apart from the question of the novices, the management of the workforce was another point of accusation. It was always considered the great virtue of the coach, however, ZZ assured in the letter that it became a negative point in the eyes of his bosses. “Everything I have contributed in the relationship with the players has been forgotten here. I am a born winner, but beyond that are human beings, emotions, and I have the feeling that it has not been understood that this also maintains the dynamics of a great club. I have even been reproached, “he said.
“I am leaving because the club no longer gives me the confidence and support to build something in the medium or long term.” The relief did not have a public response. “Zizou has his right to do and say whatever he wants,” they said from the club.