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Zinedine Zidane is the coolest man alive, says his former Real team-mate Steve McManaman

By Ian Herbert

However the high-stakes Champions League semi-final between Real and Manchester City unfolds tonight, one man at the heart of the action will not be getting rattled, according to former Madrid man Steve McManaman - and that's Zinedine Zidane.

McManaman won two European Cups in his Real days in 2000 and 2002 and the second was claimed alongside Zidane who scored that memorable volley against Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow, so he is well-placed to pass judgment on the Frenchman's temperament.

"He's the coolest man alive," McManaman said. "He is one of those types of players who exude calmness - you know everything is fine. Zizou won't worry about things. Zizou's great. A lovely man. I just hope he's a big success as a manager."

Real came in for criticism following the 0-0 first-leg draw but McManaman does not think it will bother Zidane.

"I thought they were okay," he said. "I know people wanted them to be attack-minded and run at City but I saw them against Wolfsburg when they lost 2-0 in the last round, they got battered and defended like six-year-olds.

"When they are gung ho, they get torn to pieces. So it didn't surprise me that Zizou said to Dani Carvajal and Marcelo not to run forward as many times because sometimes they just run, not thinking about where their team-mates are and they get ripped open.

"The criticism he had after the Wolfsburg game was terrible and they didn't want to be trying to beat Man City 3-0 - they were very assured and if anything finished the game off better."

But shouldn't Real always be attack-minded? Isn't that what the fans demand?

"This is the semi-final of the Champions League," former Liverpool ace McManaman continued. "Real wouldn't do it in the league. But when you're in the semis of the Champions League all that matters is getting through. If Madrid lose (playing conservatively) they'll be criticised. But if they get to the final they'll say Zidane's a tactical genius.

"They didn't go all-out in El Clasico (which they won 2-1 in March) and he got the plaudits and if they win against City, it'll be the same again."

Zidane has served a long apprenticeship at Real, being on the club's coaching staff for six years and being promoted to the top job when Rafa Benitez was sacked at the start of the year.

"He knows what being at Madrid entails," McManaman added. "People have been calling for him to get the job for years so when he finally said yes, he knew that he was stepping into the lions' den.

"I hope they are patient and give him time. There is pressure on Zizou already - when he loses, it's 'argh, he's terrible' and when he beats Barcelona, he's the greatest. It's a strange old job."

Victory against City tonight and then in the final will only help his cause.

Belfast Telegraph


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