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Zinedine Zidane: “Winning the Champions League is never a matter of luck”

Zinedine Zidane has spoken in an interview with L’Équipe on his 50th birthday and discussed his future and life in football at length.

Zinedine Zidane: “Winning the Champions League is never a matter of luck”

Zidane has given an exclusive interview to L’Équipe in which in discussed PSG, coaching the reigning Ligue 1 champions one day, life at Real Madrid and more.

“Never say never. Especially when you are a coach nowadays. When I was a player, I had my choice, almost every club. As a coach, there are not fifty clubs I can go to. There are two or three possibilities,” Zidane said regarding the possibility of one day coaching PSG.

After being linked with the Ligue 1 champions, the former Real Madrid manager has decided to wait for his chance with the France national team. In an interview on Tuesday with Le Parisien, PSG club president Nasser Al-Khelaïfi said that Zidane had never been contacted, however, French media have reported that there has been contact between the president and Zidane.

Transfer to Real Madrid

“It feels strange. And in francs, with all those zeros. It must have been around €76 million. It was mind-boggling. I had no choice. Juve had the right to ask for what they wanted. I had just turned 29. I had some experience. But I knew I was missing out [on not playing for Madrid]. At some point, I needed to leave to enhance my career. I had been at Juve for five years, I had won everything except the Champions League. We lost it twice. I needed a new challenge.”

First meeting with Florentino Pérez

“Of course I remember it. It was in Monaco. The first time we met, everything was done there. There was no second or third meeting to get things done. The first one was the right one. We said yes. Florentino Pérez is a man who doesn’t mess about. When he says “let’s do it”, he does it. I even have an anecdote that makes me laugh to this day. We were at a big table in Monaco for a gala dinner. We were not next to each other. I was invited to receive an award. He handed me a napkin and inside it was written: “Do you want to come?” And I answered on a piece of paper napkin: “Yes”. I still wonder why I answered in English. I could have put “yes”, since he speaks French, or “si” in Spanish, but I put “yes”. From there it all started. I did five years. That’s my number and it followed me.”

Why did you choose the number 5 shirt at Real Madrid?

“Five years at Juventus, five years at Real. If one day someone looks at the role of the number 5 in my life, let them find it, there are some incredible things. For example, I was involved in five Champions League victories with Real Madrid; one as a player (2002), one as Carlo’s assistant (Ancelotti, in 2014), and three as manager (2016, 2017, 2018). At Madrid, Pérez told me when I signed: “In my team, the numbers go from 1 to 11. There are no 35 or 40 on the shirts. And he said: “The only one that is free is number 5. I replied: ‘No problem, I’ll take it right away.’ That number 5 gave me a lot.”

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The Champions League final goal in Glasgow against Bayer Leverkusen

“The most beautiful, I don’t know, I don’t know. I suppose so. But one of the most important, yes. I needed it to win my first Champions League. I also needed to be decisive with Madrid in a big final. I had done it with the French national team, with Juventus for other trophies, I needed to score for Real in my first season. When I did it, I was more relaxed. The aftermath was just a bonus. I had also lost three European finals before winning that one. One with Bordeaux in the UEFA Cup (0-2, 1-3 against Bayern Munich in 1996) and my two in the Champions League with Juve. This fourth final, I couldn’t let it slip away. It starts with a cross from Roberto Carlos that is.... rotten! But in the end, his cross is beautiful. We have talked about it many times together. Everyone said to him: “What a rotten cross you’ve put in! He laughed and said: “It’s the best cross I’ve ever sent in! Look at the result... if I hadn’t given you that pass, you wouldn’t have scored that exceptional goal. He’s right.”

On the differences between winning the Champions League as a player and a coach

“It’s different. But it’s all beautiful. As a coach, you are responsible for 25 players, but not only that, you are also responsible for a club, for a name like Real Madrid and for an institution. It’s a huge weight that you don’t carry in the same way as when you are a player. When you win, and also three times in a row, it’s a great feeling of duty fulfilled around you and for a whole club. Winning the Champions League is never a matter of luck. It’s hard work. Especially three times in a row. I’ve worked like crazy. We worked hard. My players believed in me and I believed in them. We put the effort in together. It’s a lot of work with my staff.

“Winning as a player is not the same investment. As a player, I would get to training at 9 am. I’d leave at 1 pm and then I’d be home. As a coach, I would arrive at 8 am and often leave at 11 pm. It’s not the same day or the same stress. Here you work and you don’t just work for yourself. It never stops. Physically, sometimes I was at home, but my brain was still in the stadium. I was already thinking about training the next day, about what I had to say to a player.”

Zidane looks on prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes in Paris
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Zidane looks on prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes in ParisTHOMAS SAMSONAFP

Why do people call you ‘Zizou’?

“It was Rolland Courbis at Cannes who started calling me that. At first, I was called Yazid by the press, then Zinedine and finally Zidane, which is how I was christened.”

Plans for the future

“To continue coaching. I still want to do that. And then, why not be in a project where I am the leader... president of a club or the manager of a company, for example. I have already started the Z5 Group, which we started as a family, with my brothers Farid, Nordine, James and my sister Lila. But we are not there yet. I would like to do a project with people I like, who are competent and trustworthy. In life, you have to know how to surround yourself with good people.”


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