How do you go about succeeding a man whose trophy-laden success at the Bernabeu had only added to the already established legend of Zidane, the player?
With great difficulty. Just look at Manchester United and the struggles they have had since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013 after 26 years at the helm.
Zidane’s Los Blancos cannot be compared to that, with the Frenchman presiding over two-and-a-half-years of clinical, winning football.
The Real Madrid job certainly isn’t built for a man to take the reins for over two decades – simply, success is needed quickly over what tends to be a short cycle of a few years. Emphatic knock-out football, or the equivalent to Zidane’s wonder strike in the 2002 Champions League final in managerial form.
If winning the big trophies is not achieved, and the style of football is not attack, attack, attack, you are in trouble given club president Florentino Perez has presided over eight coaches in 12 years.
The infamous white handkerchiefs were certainly evident during Zidane’s tenure as full-time boss in the Spanish capital, following his rise through the assistant coach and then Castilla ranks, but former stars and Madrid-born Madridistas are always afforded extra time by the most impatient fan base around.
Santiago Solari, the cultured Argentine winger who was a team-mate of Zidane between 2000 and 2005, is a viable option to be at least considered for the role.
Since July 2016, the 41-year-old has been in charge of Real Madrid’s B (Castilla) side and although consecutive mid-table placings in Segunda Division B have not exactly pulled up any trees, he is set to take the team into a third season should Perez not offer him the top job.
There is no suggestion Solari is a candidate or indeed deserves to be in the reckoning, but like Zidane, he is learning his trade at the club and in the right place to be within a shout given he has earned plaudits for his forward-thinking, open brand of football.
A Champions League winner all those years ago in Glasgow, maybe now is the time to give Solari the opportunity to step up and he is a man who knows the club as well as most at this current moment in time.
Perhaps Zidane himself will have a say in the decision and if he does, Solari should be in the mix.
If knowing the club and history in the Whites shirt is integral in their next appointment, Guti is another man who could potentially be in the frame.
Arguably one of the most naturally gifted players of his generation, he spent 15 years as a first-team star at the Bernabeu – many of those as vice-captain, and rose up through the youth ranks.
A popular but brazen individual who has never been shy of speaking his mind or falling out with his managers in the past, Guti has been coaching Real’s Juvenil and Under-19 sides. He was touted to take over the Castilla team from Solari – a job he was reportedly promised by Perez – but now looks set to work with the Youth A team for a further campaign.
The 41-year-old is very much an outsider for the first-team manager’s position given his lack of experience while club icon Raul is currently completing his coaching badges on UEFA’s Elite coaching course at the Ciudad de Futbol de Las Rozas. Former midfielder Xabi Alonso is also set to coach one of Real’s youth sides next term.
Looking out but in all the same, another idol, Fernando Hierro, would immediately be a man to get the fans on board and to help settle the ship.
The legendary all-round defender and midfielder, who played over 500 times for the Whites, was part of Carlo Ancelotti’s coaching staff during his Bernabeu stint and also managed Oviedo during the 2016-17 season. He is currently working with the Spanish Football Federation ahead of the World Cup in Russia.
He is potentially a name on the shortlist, with the advantage of appointing someone who knows the club a way of approaching what is likely to be a tricky transition period to negotiate.
The flip side of all this is obviously going down the route of a big and proven managerial name but why change a formula that in the last few years has certainly gone to plan.
Zinedine Zidane has always been a master at deciding his own destiny.
Thursday’s decision really should have come as no surprise but of course the timing of his resignation ultimately caught many off guard given how soon it came following last weekend’s Champions League triumph over Liverpool in Kiev.
Throughout his entire career, the French maestro has had the midas touch and timing – not just when the ball was at his famed feet – to make the right call.
He has indeed just made another one by ending his managerial dynasty at Real Madrid in the finest way and at the most appropriate juncture possible. Looking back, it’s a pattern which he has followed and been the formation to one of the game’s historic careers.
At the end of the 2005-06 campaign, Zidane hung up his boots as a player at the Bernabeu before his Galactico powers started to wane and injuries, which had riddled his impact in his final season, caught up with him for good. It was a wise move and his decisiveness nicely dovetailed with a farewell at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
His early penalty goal, in the final, dinking the ball exquisitely with a Panenka over Gianluigi Buffon of all people, was something only he would have had the bottle to do on the grandest stage.
What followed – that infamous head-butt on Italy defender Marco Matterazzi deep into extra-time – is one of football’s most remembered and symbolic send-offs. So much so, that the fact France lost out on penalties following a 1-1 draw in open play is almost forgotten.
The assault on Materazzi was not totally out of character for a 1998 World Cup and Ballon d’Or-winning player who had a nasty streak in him, but was typical Zidane in the sense he virtually always made a telling impact in the biggest moments, good or bad.
In those two instances, he knew his time was up and he had to move on from his chapter as a player, leaving us all disappointed that we would not see the then 33-year-old experience a career twilight but happy in the fact that the last memory was of a man still rated among the world’s best.
It’s amazing, really. Zidane’s thought process, evidenced with the way his brain worked on the pitch, has always been ahead of the game and everyone else for that matter.
That has certainly been to his benefit in making what he described as the most difficult decision of his career in leaving Los Blancos.
But, such was his vision, he could foresee that topping three unprecedented and successive Champions League victories and nine trophies in less than three years, was going to be difficult going forward – given he had taken this set of players, as good as they are, through to the end of what is a natural cycle of a club of Madrid’s stature.
At 33, Cristiano Ronaldo is virtually as good as ever and benefitted from Zidane’s decision to employ him more centrally, but Zizou had the foresight to see the batch of key players, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos included, would need replacing sooner rather than later and he was not the man for a new project and rebuilding job in arguably the most mentally draining job in football.
Zidane masterminded his success organically, earning the trust of all but a few of his players – regardless of whether they were starting each week or not. His playing legacy obviously helped, but he seemingly had a unique ability to connect with them in a way no other coach could.
Those who question his tactical acumen need only to look at his trophy haul, success he achieved by limited spend (€70m during his tenure) and the ability to squeeze everything out of already gifted players. Opening Florentino Perez’s chequebook and buying a new team this summer wouldn’t have been his way.
In this day and age, where the focus (in all aspects of life really) seems to be on the next thing – and in football, the next transfer, the next game, next season – only in years to come will Zidane’s sublime managerial success and feats in the Whites dugout be fully appreciated.
France national team manager Didier Deschamps says former teammate Zinedine Zidane will follow in his footsteps “one day”.
Zidane announced his shock decision to resign from his role as Real Madrid manager on Thursday, and the player who led France to the 1998 World Cup trophy has previously been backed to take the reins of Les Blues.
Deschamps, who was captain of that side, as well as the one that won Euro 2000 where Zidane again starred, played down the idea that Thursday’s announcement adds pressure on him and his squad ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“I’m not even thinking about it,” said Deschamps, who is under contract with the French football federation (FFF) until 2020. “I’m totally concentrated and focused on what lies ahead for me and the players.
“He will be coach (of France) one day. It will happen when it happens.
“For the moment he wants to enjoy some rest and spend time with his family.
“One day he will be the national team coach. I can’t say when, but to me it’s logical.
France are among the favourites in Russia, alongside Germany and Brazil.
However, he stepped down after saying he was no longer certain he could inspire Los Blancos to more success.
“I don’t see myself continuing to win this year and I am a winner, I don’t like to lose,” the 45-year-old explained.