May 7, 2006 was an emotional day for the fans of Zinédine Zidane, and most especially for the Real Madrid champion himself. The club’s home match against Villarreal marked Zidane’s farewell game after his announced retirement a month earlier. People in the stands, his friends and family included, showed their love and support by holding up posters bearing his shirt and number.
“It was a very emotional moment for me. Many people who know me will tell you that I’m not really good at showing emotions, but that game was different,” said Zidane in an interview with FIFA.com. “I remember that I battled to hold back tears. The thing is, deep down, you know that this is your last game of your club career and throughout my life, I have always loved playing football,” he added.
And, like all true loves, his never went away. Although he no longer professionally plays, the FIFA World Cup winner and multiple FIFA World Player of the Year awardee has found a way to stay in the beautiful game—now as the newly appointed manager of the very team he last rallied with, Real Madrid.
Prior to this position, Zidane had always maintained a close relationship with the team. First as a special adviser in 2010, participating in the team’s pre-match gatherings and training sessions, and then as assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti in 2013. The following year, he took over Real Madrid’s team B, Real Madrid Castilla, as head coach—a role he fulfilled before officially becoming Real Madrid’s head coach on January 4, 2016.
On the new appointment, Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez shared a few words with Zidane: “This is your club, this is your stadium. And you have all our support. From this moment, you are the trainer of Madrid. I know for you the word ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist.”
Zidane then acknowledged the statement with his own: “I feel more emotion now than when I signed as a player, but from tomorrow, I am going to put my heart into doing all I can for this club. I want to ensure a trophy by the end of the season.”
Although the road to the championship is long, the journey is off to an amazing start, with Zidane making good on his word. On his debut match as the team’s head coach, Real Madrid dominated Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 in the Spanish league on January 9th of this year. It was a marvelous win—a reward to the fans that have stuck by him from the start of his career to the dawn of a new one, and a reassurance to the critics who questioned his appointment to the new position. But with his feet planted firmly on the ground, Zidane maintains, “We have to understand that this was only the first game, we have to keep winning.”
As the saying goes, those who can’t do, teach. And for others, especially those skeptical of a power performance player’s transition into coaching, teaching first-hand tactics based on natural abilities and instinct isn’t just hard, it’s impossible. But for a champion who doesn’t believe in the word, everything else is just a challenge—one he has already proven himself to be ready for.