New Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane promises team will play with attacking flair
MADRID (AP) – Real Madrid's new coach Zinedine Zidane says he wants to inspire his team to play with the same attacking flair he displayed as a player.
The French soccer great said, "Football with a personal touch, with attacking play, is what I'll aim for."
Zidane was speaking Tuesday at his first news conference, a day after Real Madrid fired coach Rafa Benítez after only seven months and replaced him with its former star player.
Club president Florentino Pérez announced the decision at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, after Madrid's 2-2 draw at Valencia on Sunday deepened a crisis that started with an embarrassing 4-0 home loss to rival Barcelona in November.
"We have to do our best so that the team is able to win something," said Zidane. "I'm going to put all my heart into Real Madrid."
Madrid has won seven of nine matches since the demoralizing defeat to Barcelona but fans continued to demand the departure of Benítez, whose Liverpool side won the Champions League in 2005.
Real Madrid is third in the Spanish league, four points behind leader Atlético Madrid and two behind Barcelona, which has a game in hand.
Zidane, who was Carlo Ancelotti's assistant in 2014 when Real Madrid won the Champions League, has been coaching Madrid's "B'' team in the third division.
"I'm more emotional now than when I signed as a player," said Zidane, who ended his career at Madrid in 2006.
It will be the first major coaching job for the former playmaker, whose career was marked by greatness on the field but also by his head-butting of an Italian defender in the 2006 World Cup final.
"He is clearly conscious of how tough this job is," Pérez said. "Zidane doesn't know the word 'impossible.'"
Zidane leaves Real Madrid Castilla in second place in the third division, with 37 points in 19 games.
Pérez had supported Benítez since the Barcelona loss, saying the Spaniard "was the solution, not the problem," to Madrid's crisis. But fans kept showing their discontent even in an 8-0 win over Malmo in the Champions League and a 10-2 rout of Rayo Vallecano in the Spanish league. They also were not happy with the team's embarrassing elimination from the Copa del Rey for using an ineligible player.
Zidane's name was mentioned as a possible replacement by Spanish media every time Real Madrid struggled. The 43-year-old former star kept dismissing the possibility of taking over Benítez but always made it clear that his ultimate goal was to coach the main team.
Pérez recently praised Zidane and said that naturally he would become Madrid's coach one day.
There had been speculation about José Mourinho taking over at Madrid, but Pérez said at the time of his firing from Chelsea that the Portuguese coach's return wasn't in the team's plans.
The club said more than 6,000 fans turned out to watch the former France great take charge during Madrid's traditional open-door first practice session of the year on Tuesday.
Zidane's first game as coach will be on Saturday at home against Deportivo La Coruña in the Spanish league.
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