Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on Wednesday confirmed that he has signed a contract extension which will keep him at the European champions until 2020.
“It’s signed,” said the French star after his side drew 2-2 with Numancia to progress to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey 5-2 on aggregate.
After a dream start at Real, with eight trophies out of a possible 10, Zidane has endured a tough season with his side 16 points behind Barcelona in the La Liga title race.
And the 45-year-old cautioned: “I’m enjoying what I do every day, because that’s the way it is. I can’t imagine myself as a coach in two, three years, because things are not like that.
“I know how it goes, nothing more, even with this contract it does not change anything.”
– The team’s condition 💪
– Contract renewal 📝
– @DaniCeballos46 🏃♂️
– Critics 💬
Read what #Zidane said in his post-match press conference!
— Real Madrid C.F.🇬🇧 (@realmadriden) January 11, 2018
On Wednesday, Real fielded an almost unrecognisable team and struggled into the Copa del Rey last-eight.
Zidane could afford to rest his superstars with one eye on La Liga and the Champions League last 16 with a clash against Paris Saint-Germain next month.
However, they were far from convincing at the Bernabeu.
Lucas Vazquez scored both of Real’s goals after the 11th and 59th minutes.
But on both occasions, their modest visitors fought back thanks to a brace from Guillermo on the stroke of half-time and then after 82 minutes.
Numancia ended the game with 10 men after captain Dani Calvo was red-carded in the dying moments.
Leganes, a modest club from the Madrid suburbs, reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey for the first time in their 89-year existence.
Despite losing 2-1 at Villarreal, who are currently sixth in La Liga, Leganes progressed on away goals having won the first leg 1-0.
Moroccan international Nabil El Zhar scored the crucial away goal for mid-table Leganes on the half-hour mark.
In the night’s other early second leg tie, last season’s runners-up Alaves downed third division Formentera 2-0 for a 5-1 aggregate win.
On Thursday, three-time defending champions Barcelona host Celta Vigo with the two sides locked at 1-1.
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde insisted that despite the high-profile capture of Philippe Coutinho, who can’t play for around three weeks due to a thigh injury, his team’s character will not change with the Brazilian’s arrival.
“The Barca model will stay the same,” he said on Wednesday.
“The club always has the chance to go into the market to buy the great players. But at the same time, Barca will continue to nurture young players at the training centre to maintain the style and identity.
“That’s still the case today.”
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers believes Philippe Coutinho was born to play for Barcelona.
Coutinho, 25, completed a £142m (Dh706m) transfer from Liverpool to the Nou Camp on Monday, making him the third most expensive player in football history.
The Brazilian international has signed a five-and-a-half-year contract with the La Liga leaders, bringing to an end a five-year spell with Liverpool in which the playmaker scored 54 goals in 201 matches.
“I’m not surprised (he’s gone to Barcelona)” said Rodgers in Dubai on Tuesday, where the Scottish league leaders are currently based for a mid-season warm weather training camp.
“If Phil was born to play for any club it was Barcelona. His style is perfectly suited.
“Every part of him as a football player and as a human being is suited for Barcelona. Technical ability, incredible, tactical concepts, if he plays in different positions, physically he has speed, he has strength, mentally – very stable boy emotionally.
“And he’ll carry the values of Barcelona because he’s such a good person. He doesn’t waste his time doing stupid things. He’s a good guy. He’s perfectly suited for them.”
Rodgers played a key role in his development, bringing Coutinho to Liverpool from Inter Milan in 2013 when he was only 21.
“When I took Phil into Liverpool he was playing in Italy, not in the team,” the 44-year-old, who managed the Reds between June 2012 and October 2015, said. “He was a young player and when we had the chance we brought him in for £8.5m from Inter Milan and then people wondered is he going to be physically big enough.
“I’d seen him play as a young player for Vasco de Gama and then Inter Milan and I’d seen him play at 18 with Wesley Sneijder and (Samuel) Eto’o, so you could just tell he was a player. He just needed the opportunity and he came over and he was phenomenal, obviously, in my time and then he continued.
“So it doesn’t surprise me (he has gone to Barcelona).
“Obviously it’s sad for Liverpool but they’ve made a huge investment in the player, got a huge return, and then he gets the chance to go and play with his mate, Mr Suarez. They teamed up very well and were very close when they played together with me at Liverpool.
“He’s in there with some of the best players in the world, so it’s a great move for him, (and) Liverpool have made a huge profit on a young player.”
Rodgers worked a lot with Coutinho when he arrived at Liverpool, shaping him in to the player he is today.
“When Phil first come in he needed to, believe it or not, defend better.
“I’ve always felt in order to attack well, you need to defend well – as a team – so he needed to understand that side of it. How to press, how to be aggressive.
“He was a magician with the football and he’s been that since he was 11 years of age. I’ve seen some of the old Futsal images of him and he was amazing.
“So he’s always had that, that has always been his strength, so it was a matter of ‘Okay how we can integrate that in the British game that is a more physically tough league.’
“So we would play him in various positions. Start him off as a wide player, play as a ten, he played as a false nine for me, as a striker – then play in midfield as a central.
“More work with the strength and conditioning team then his natural football strength came into it as he got adapted to the way of working. That was how he could develop in order to sustain the level of performance.”
Rodgers feels a sense of pride from bringing through not just Coutinho but several more promising stars who he has worked with early in their career.
“It’s what I love football for,” he said. “I think when I retire, I’ve always said, people will talk about trophies and all that side of it. My satisfaction comes from seeing the likes of Raheem Sterling, putting him in the team and then he moves for £49m.
“Bringing Luis (Suarez) in when I came to Liverpool and people talking about him ‘he doesn’t score’, ‘he doesn’t take enough chances’. In two seasons he gets his goals, gets his move.
“Putting Gylfi Sigurdsson in the team at Reading, bringing him to Swansea, watching him grow and develop. Joe Allen.
“That’s where I get my pride from, seeing players develop, learn. I try to bring in people who are coachable, hungry, willing to learn. If they’ve got those three things then you tend to find they grow naturally and you can help them improve.”
The Northern Irishman says Coutinho will be a “huge success” at Barcelona and sees him as a natural replacement for legend Andres Iniesta.
“I think he is the one player that can go in and genuinely (perform),” he said. “Iniesta’s a pleasure as a player, him and Xavi are incredible players. But if there’s a player that I can liken to Iniesta’s game in the world it’s young Phil.
“He’s different to Neymar, different type, he’s more the Iniesta type and obviously at 33 Iniesta’s game time is starting to become limited. Phil’s a natural successor.
“You couldn’t speak highly enough as Phil because as a person he’s an incredible guy.”
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane insists the team will not “go crazy” despite losing more ground on La Liga leaders Barcelona after a late header from Maxi Gomez earned Celta Vigo a 2-2 draw at Balaidos.
Los Blancos now trail their bitter rivals by 16 points, albeit with a match in hand, after Barcelona had earlier defeated Levante 3-0 at the Nou Camp before new £142million signing Philippe Coutinho was paraded for an official photocall.
Wales forward Gareth Bale, fit again following a calf problem, had scored twice in as many first-half minutes to seemingly put Real on course for victory after the hosts had taken the lead through a fine chip by Daniel Wass.
Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas then saved a second-half penalty from Iago Aspas before, with only eight minutes left, Gomez nodded in a deserved equaliser.
There was still time for Cristiano Ronaldo to lash an angled drive into the side-netting – and for Aspas to see what looked a strong shout for another penalty waved away after a clumsy challenge by Marcelo.
The result left Zidane once again facing questions about the direction of his team which last season had swept all before them en route to domestic and European success.
“Tomorrow will be another day and we will go back to work and think about the next matches.
The season is very long,” Zidane said at a press conference, as quoted on the club’s official website.
“We are not going to go crazy. I am the first one responsible.”
Zidane accepted his side had not done enough to secure all three points.
He said: “We are all a little angry with the result. Not with the first half, but with the second.
“We can’t be happy with that. There was room to play a better game because we didn’t play well for 90 minutes.
“We have to analyse our game in depth. We had many mistakes.
“We have to have more confidence in our possibilities.”
Midfielder Casemiro echoed the sentiments of the head coach.
“We’ve dropped two points and now we have to keep working because we know there’s still a long way to go,” the Brazilian said after the match, as quoted on realmadrid.com.
“At Madrid we never throw the towel in. If there’s one team that can turn this around it’s Real Madrid.
“We continue to work hard because we can do this and we believe in ourselves. We all need to be performing better.”