Champions League winner in his first season as a senior manager. La Liga winner in his first full season as senior manager, and one game away from becoming the first-ever back-to-back European Champion in the Champions League era.
Despite all of this, is Zinedine Zidane regarded in the same light as Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho or Sir Alex Ferguson?
After all, the outcome of Real Madrid’s Champions League Final against Juventus is all that stands in the way of the Frenchman having won as many Champions League crowns as all three of those managers.
Sure, it’s early days in his management career, but Zidane has brought an assured, dominant winning mentality to Real Madrid that has guided them to their first La Liga title in five years.
Real Madrid easily have one of the best squads in world football, of course, but managing these players through squad rotation and ego-checking can be a tightrope walk for some.
Not Zidane. The Champions League winner as player and manager has had no problem benching seasoned superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, sometimes even leaving him out of the squad completely, as he did in away trips to Granada, Deportivo La Coruna, Sporting Gijon and Leganes.
Real Madrid would go on to win all those games with the likes of Isco, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata coming into the squad and getting the job done.
Comments can be cheaply conjured to dismiss their success by pointing to the obvious quality of those squad players, but one must remember that Real Madrid have always been blessed with some of the world’s best players from top to bottom, yet haven’t been so close to a league and European double in almost 60 years.
Vicente Del Bosque, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Fabio Capello all enjoyed success as Real Madrid managers, but none of them could secure a Liga and Champions League double.
In fact, the feat has only been achieved twice in the club’s history, first by Jose Villalonga in 1956/57 and then by Luis Carniglia in 1957/58.
For a club that’s seemingly seen and done it all, it’s also been a season of firsts; Real Madrid have scored in every La Liga game for the first time in their history, totaling 106 goals from 38 games.
Every outfield player barring Fabio Coentrao and Dani Carvajal have found the net in La Liga, while the former is the only player not to have scored a goal in any of the five competitions Real Madrid featured in this season.
Regardless of your opinion of Real Madrid or Zinedine Zidane, it’s impossible to deny the impact he’s made at the club, and it will be a lot harder to ignore if he lifts the Champions League for the second time in 16 months.