Wed, Mar 13, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Real hero Zidane returns to rebuild

SPECULATION:’AS’ reported that Neymar is Real Madrid’s big transfer target and that they are willing to spend up to 350 million euros on the Brazil forward

Reuters, MADRID

New Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, right, poses for a photograph with his wife, Veronique, after a news conference in Madrid, Spain, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Real Madrid favorite Zinedine Zidane on Monday returned for a second spell as coach with plans to rebuild the Spanish giants who have fallen into crisis since he left in May last year after winning an unprecedented third straight UEFA Champions League title.

Zidane also won a La Liga title in 2016-2017 among nine trophies before standing down having taken the club to the European summit, but they have endured a miserable season in his absence, first sacking Julen Lopetegui and then Santiago Solari.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has turned again to Zidane, who stepped in for Rafael Benitez in 2016 and quickly guided the team to Champions League glory, but this time he will be without the club’s all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portugal forward’s departure in July last year to Juventus has had a big impact on Real this season, while their other key players, such as Marcelo, Isco and Gareth Bale, have struggled and Zidane has a big job on his hands as he prepares to shake things up.

“Things will change, in every way, we have to change things for the years to come,” Zidane told a news conference at the Santiago Bernabeu. “Now the important thing is that I am back, and there is time to talk and see what needs to be done.”

Perez said that Zidane’s return was to help restore the club’s pride after a painful season.

“This season we have not got the results we wanted and our responsibility is to put into action the reaction the team needs,” Perez said at Zidane’s presentation.

The Frenchman must oversee a regeneration by using the young players Solari brought through, including 18-year-old forward Vinicius Junior, fullback Sergio Reguilon and midfielder Marcos Llorente, as well as welcoming major new signings.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is likely to be a prime target, with the Belgium forward having previously spoken of his admiration for Zidane, who won the FIFA World Cup as a player with France.

“Everyone knows the respect I have for Zidane as a player, but also as a manager, he was my idol,” Hazard told Belgian TV. “To play under Zidane would be a dream.”

Spanish newspaper Marca on Monday ran a poll, with 56 percent of more than 128,000 respondents saying Hazard should be Real’s main transfer target, with Tottenham Hotspur’s England striker Harry Kane in second place on 10 percent and Neymar third with 9 percent.

AS reported that Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, once of Barcelona, is Real’s big transfer target as they bid to fill the hole left by Ronaldo and that they are willing to spend up to 350 million euros (US$394 million) on the Brazil forward.

Speaking to reporters after Zidane’s presentation, Perez also joked about Neymar’s strike partner in Paris, Kylian Mbappe.

“Zidane’s French, so maybe he can do something about [signing] Mbappe,” Perez said.

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