Real Madrid have the next Zidane in hand and, although he is an unlikely immediate substitute for the French coach, this Bernabéu legend is a serious candidate to be his heir in the medium term. The man is recognisable simply as Raúl.
Raúl could follow in Zidane's footsteps
The iconic number seven striker has over the last six weeks completed the UEFA A and B coaching diploma (the equivalent of the old level I and II) and the intention of the Spanish club is to follow a roadmap similar to the one used with Zidane, that is, build experience in Valdebebas with the lower category while waiting for the right moment to step up to the first team role.
The dismissal of Rafa Benítez accelerated the plans with Zidane but the result could not have been better: three Champions Leagues and one LaLiga (an incredible haul of nine titles in total) in only two and a half years. Already a legend as a player, Zizou was given the chance of being a sponge and absorbing all the information he could without pressure, in his place alongside Carlo Ancelotti in the year of La Décima. Then he was allowed to earn his stripes on the Castilla bench. As a matter of fact, in that role he didn't make a significant impression, as they didn't qualify for the promotion playoff.
Raúl: connection with the fans and the changing room
Going down this route with Raul will feel like less of a risk because the 'Zidane formula' has proven, somewhat surprisingly, to be effective. Like the French midfielder, Raúl would immediately have the affection from the stands and is already well respected by the squad (he shared a dressing room with the current captain). His relationship with Florentino has been mended following his frosty departure from the club and one other factor that carries weight is how the man (now in his 40s) carries himself in the media. The former striker should be able to deal with the press having been a spokesman and ambassador of the club for some years.
The decisive thing is that Raúl himself has finally decided what his future path is. In June 2016, during an interview for Panenka, he was still hesitant.
"I want to be a coach, but I have not felt it yet," he said at that time.
However, in recent months he has been embracing the idea and would start in one of the teams of La Fábrica, Madrid's famed youth academy. Once this theoretical and practical development has been completed, Raúl would have just one more element left to tick off, Uefa's Pro Licence. It's possible he will have it as early as 2019 and with that card he would be in a position to take over at any football club, even one as big and as challenging as Real Madrid.