Where will Zinedine Zidane coach next? Juventus or the French National team?
Zidane has been taking a well-earned sabbatical from football since he left the Real Madrid post in May 2021.
He was one of the greatest players the world has ever seen and one of the most successful coaches of recent times - even if his managerial experience was relatively brief and limited to just one club. Zinedine Zidane stepped down from the coaching post at Real Madrid in May 2021. It was the second time the Frenchman had walked away, this time he seemed tired of the pressure, having to deal with the media, the constant criticism, questioning of his tactics and methods…
Club president Florentino Pérez was visibly sorry to see him go. During two brief spells as first team coach, Zizou had helped the team to deliver two LaLiga titles and three consecutive Champions Leagues - the only manager to have achieved such a seemingly impossible feat. There was other silverware too - four Super Cups, two each of the Spanish and European trophies plus two Club World Cups - 11 trophies in little over four and a half years between both of his stints at the helm.
Time away from football
But since he decided to step away in May last year, Zidane has been in no hurry to return to coaching. He has used the break to spend quality time with his family, and watch his sons, Luka, Enzo, Theo and Elyaz develop their own playing careers.
Not that he has been short of offers. Almost as soon as he stepped away from Madrid he was being linked with the top vacancies in all of Europe’s major leagues. There was talk of Manchester United, PSG… But it’s unlikely that we will ever see Zidane coach in the Premier League - he is someone who likes to get his message across as simply and straightforwardly as possible - and perhaps his command of the English language isn’t at a level where he would feel comfortable.
Zizou is inextricably linked to Real Madrid and it’s hard to envisage him accepting a coaching post at another club, and certainly not in Spain. He has ties to all of his former clubs, the places where he was able to develop his talent and grow into one of the best players on the continent - Cannes and Girondins Bordeaux back home in France, and Juventus. Zidane spent five seasons in Turin before Real Madrid broke the world transfer record, paying a fee of 11.5 billion pesetas (70 million euros) to bring him to the Bernabéu in 2001.
It was at Juve where he won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player awards, although he missed out on winning the Champions League twice during his time in Italy. Now, the rumour mill is placing him back at his old club.
Juventus crashed out of this season’s Champions League midway through the group stage, after having won just one of their first five games. They go into the final group game against PSG on the same number of points and victories as Maccabi Haifa - one of them will end up being relegated to the Europa League.
Domestically, things aren’t going too well in Serie A either. Juve are eighth in the table, 10 points behind leaders Napoli. Tuesday’s 4-3 defeat to Benfica could turn out to be the final nail in the coffin for Massimiliano Allegri - Juve are reported to be looking for a replacement and one of the names which has cropped up is Zidane.
Could Zidane be tempted to return to Turin and revive a flagging Juventus side? Unlike in England, he has the language and is familiar with the club and the Italian game. But ever since he quit Real Madrid, you get the feeling that Zidane is only interested in one specific, very special job - taking the reins of the French national team, the country he represented 108 times as a player.
It’s a job that comes with huge responsibility, but not the kind of endless stress of having to deal with the media three times a week. And while it’s a full-time job, he would only be actually working with the players during international breaks.
Deschamps tenure coming to an end
Zizou’s old Juve team mate Didier Deschamps has been in charge of the France squad since July 2012. During his tenure, Les Bleus have won the biggest prize in football, the World Cup and more recently, the Nations League. Deschamps has signed successive two-year deals with the French Federation since taking the job but his contract will expire this year, after the World Cup in Qatar.
Before France were crowned world champions in Russia in the last World Cup finals, Deschamps hinted that Zizou would be the ideal man to take the reins. “He will definitely be a coach of the French team someday. When? I cannot say. But it seems logical. It will happen when it happens,” he told French reporters in May 2018.
Another French football legend thinks the same. Thierry Henry told CBS Sports this week that he feels the Juventus post isn’t what Zidane is looking for but the France coaching job would be perfect for him. “Zizou won the Champions League, Zizou proved that he can go (to a club like Juventus). He has proved he can win at a big club. I’m not going to go there (if Zidane could succeed at Juve). I think he’s waiting for the national team (France). So I’m not going to go there. I don’t think he will go to Juventus. I think he is waiting for one thing and one thing only. The national team.
“He won three Champions Leagues with Real Madrid,” he continued. “Why are you going to bother with other clubs when you can have the national team? I wouldn’t. He’s been linked to a lot of clubs and it never happened. I don’t think Zizou would want to do it but this is me talking. Maybe he does want to do it. But I can see him waiting for the national team and it would make total sense.”