Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane showered praise on Kashima Antlers ahead of their Club World Cup final match in Yokohama. However, the Frenchman never had an iota of doubt that Los Blancos would lift the coveted trophy with the crop of players at his disposal.
Image: Zinedine Zidane
Speaking during an interview, Zidane said he’s amazed at the rise of Kashima, who are currently the first Asian club side to reach the final stage of CWC.
Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was recently crowned the 2016 World Best Player, and Zizou’s team have surpassed a previous record of 34 games unbeaten run in La Liga.
“They [Kashima] have already won three games and deserve to be in the final,” Zidane noted. “After a week, we are ready and prepared to play.”
“Japanese football has improved a lot over time, and that is shown by the great work done by the coaches and the players.
“They are a good, organised team who run a lot.”
The 44-year-old took over reigns from former coach Rafa Benitez, and it’s almost time to celebrate his first anniversary on the job. He said his wish has always been to steer the team back to their their ways.
“My idea was to try to get the team to win matches,” he continued.
“I’m positive but it is not always as it seems; everybody expects Real Madrid to win as well.
“Taking over these players was easy.”
The former Madrid player and now coach talked about FIFA’s newest replay technology which has been adopted to assist referees officiate matches with minimal errors. His opinion was sought on Ronaldo’s late goal the referee almost disallowed.
“All you need is time,” he said.
“It’s good to try and improve these things, but there has to be patience; everything is going to get bigger and better.
“What we want is for there not to be doubts and this is achieved with time, it’s good for football.”
Marcello Lippi, the Italian coach who has also coached Zidane, had this to say about Zizou: “I think Zidane is the greatest talent we’ve known in football these last twenty years, yet he never played the prima donna. I am honoured to have been his manager.”
Former England manager Kevin Keegan also shared the same opinion with Lippi. While answering questions from reporters, he said: “You look at Zidane and think ‘I’ve never seen a player quite like that.’ Diego Maradona was a great player. Johan Cruyff was a great player. They were different — but with similarities. What sets Zidane apart is the way he manipulates a football, buying himself space that isn’t there. Add his vision and it makes him very special.”
Italian manager Cesare Maldini said during the 1998 World Cup held in France: “I would give up five players to have Zidane in my squad.”