Title my biggest success: Zidane

ONE REMAINING GOAL::Real Madrid could go onto complete a first La Liga and Champions League double for 59 years against Juve in Cardiff on June 3


Tue, May 23, 2017 - Page 16

Zinedine Zidane claimed on Sunday winning La Liga as Real Madrid coach surpasses his stellar achievements as a player and even lifting the UEFA Champions League in his debut season as a coach last year.

Madrid claimed the Spanish title for a 33rd time as Cristiano Ronaldo struck his 40th goal of the season and Karim Benzema slotted home early in the second half to secure a 2-0 win at Malaga.

“It is the happiest day of my professional life by a distance,” Zidane said after landing Madrid’s first title in five years.

“Right now, I would like to stand up here and dance,” he added at a news conference interrupted by Marcelo, Danilo, Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Alvaro Morata drowning their boss in champagne.

Zidane won the FIFA World Cup, the European Championships and the UEFA Champions League as one of the greatest players of his generation, but said the extra responsibility that comes with being coach made his achievements all the greater.

“As coach of Real Madrid you know what the expectations are,” he said. “I have experienced it as a player and that is why I say it is the happiest day of my professional life because being a coach changes everything. I have won everything with this club, this shirt, but to win La Liga is the best of all. I live what I am doing with passion and what I have enjoyed the most is today because after nine or 10 months we have won La Liga.”

Zidane’s role in restoring Madrid to the top of Spanish soccer was hailed by Ronaldo as the Portuguese claimed just his second league winners’ medal in eight seasons since joining the Spanish giants.

“He has managed things very intelligently along with his assistants,” Ronaldo said. “The proof is there, we have won a very difficult league against one of the best teams in the world in Barca and for me Zidane has done a phenomenal job.”

Madrid could go onto complete a first La Liga and Champions League double for 59 years when they face Juventus in the final in Cardiff on June 3.

Real’s run to the title was most certainly a squad effort with Ronaldo sidelined or rested for nine games — all of which they won.

“On a collective level, I think it is my best season at Real Madrid,” Ronaldo said. “Everyone has played minutes and all the squad have contributed.”

Madrid edged out reigning champions Barcelona by just three points after the Catalans came from 2-0 down to beat Sociedad Deportiva Eibar 4-2 on Sunday.

Zidane highlighted his side’s response from losing a thrilling El Clasico 3-2 to Barca with the final kick of the game last month by winning their final six league games as the key to the title.

“The last six games, but for sure the last three have been key,” the Frenchman said. “To win 4-1 at home [against Sevilla], 4-1 away [at RC Celta de Vigo] and then 2-0 today is spectacular.”