Carlo Ancelotti believes that his former pupil Zinedine Zidane has everything required to be a major success as Real Madrid, although he hopes that the Champions League trophy eludes him this season. Zidane was assistant to Ancelotti when Madrid lifted its 10th European Cup in 2014. By last season he had stepped up to take the top job and within six months had led the team to victory over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.
The two men will be reunited in New Jersey on Wednesday when Real Madrid takes on Ancelotti's new side Bayern Munich in a friendly match as part of the International Champions Cup. And, while he hopes Zidane's success continues, Ancelotti has his own eyes set on delivering Bayern the Champions League crown it missed out on in three seasons under Pep Guardiola.
“Zidane was my assistant and last season he won the Champions League; I hope that it all works out well for him in Spain, and obviously a little less in Europe,” he said in his press conference ahead of the match at MetLife Stadium. “We spoke a lot when we worked together and I knew he'd make a great coach even then. Zizou was a great player and he has a lot of charisma, and that is very important when you are dealing with other players. He's got everything it takes to coach Real Madrid.”
Zidane's rise to European-Cup winning coach has certainly been swift. After a season as Ancelotti's assistant, he spent just 18 months in charge of Real Madrid's Castilla team before being thrust into the first-team role following the abrupt end of Rafa Benitez's reign. Although Zidane has already landed the top prize, Ancelotti's dismissal just a year after winning the Champions League provides a lesson in how quickly the fortunes of a coach can change, especially at a club as trigger-happy as Real Madrid.
Now preparing to embark on his first full season as coach, Zidane hopes to implement many of the lessons he learned while under Ancelotti, both as his assistant and as a player in the late 1990s at Juventus.
"I'm very happy because I've got a lot of respect for him,” he said. “I had him as a coach in my playing days and he's someone I learned a lot from and who I admire. As his assistant I kept quiet and I learned a lot from him. Now it's my time and I thank him for what he taught me. I've got a lot of respect for him and I'll say hello to him, just as I always do.”
After a 3-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain to begin its preseason efforts in the United States, Real Madrid bounced back with a 3-2 win over Chelsea on Saturday. And Zidane expects preparations to step up a gear against Bayern Munich, with the European Super Cup upcoming next Tuesday. It means those players who start are set to be given longer playing time, rather than a rash of substitutions at half time.
Zidane could also have Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez available for the first time. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Pepe and Toni Kroos remain unavailable after their exploits at Euro 2016, while Karim Benzema has again been ruled out with a hip problem. Forward Jese Rodriguez will not feature, either with Zidane revealing that a transfer to take the 23-year-old to Paris Saint-Germain is imminent.
For Bayern Munich, the match is also the final one of its U.S. tour and last before taking on Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup. Bayern goes into Wednesday's contest fresh from a 4-1 win over Inter Milan in Charlotte on Saturday.
With the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Douglas Costa not on the tour, young U.S. international Julian Green has taken his chance to impress. The 21-year-old fired a hat-trick against Inter, although Ancelotti wouldn't yet confirm whether he would stay with Bayern this season or go out on loan once again.
“I'm not a magician,” Ancelotti said. “I don't know what will happen in the future but he has to keep working hard and have belief in his abilities. He's at a great club which is involved in a lot of competitions but the most important thing is believing in your dream and fighting for it.”
Kickoff Time: 7.30 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
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