Madrid's 'prodigal son' Zidane was already a coaching great - Karembeu

By Sports Desk July 17, 2020

Zinedine Zidane is the "prodigal son" whose status as a top coach was already secure before Real Madrid clinched LaLiga glory on Thursday, says Christian Karembeu.

Madrid defeated Villarreal 2-1 at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano to dethrone Barcelona and win the top-flight title for just the third time in the past 12 seasons.

Zidane led Los Blancos to success in the Champions League three straight times during his first spell in charge of the club and has now overseen 11 trophy wins across both his tenures.

Despite questions about his true ability as a coach given all his success has come with one of the world's biggest clubs, Zidane's former France team-mate, and ex-Madrid player, Karembeu thinks his credentials were validated before he returned to the club last year.

He told Stats Perform News: "[Zinedine] Zidane doesn't need to prove to anyone anymore that he's a great coach. Everyone can agree on that, winning three Champions Leagues in a row is enough. And then he won LaLiga.

"For me, he's the prodigal son and he deserves to win so many titles because he's innovative and he's learned a lot, despite players coming and going, he managed to create a winning team, there's nothing else to say."

Karim Benzema struck both Madrid's goals against Villarreal to take his LaLiga tally for the season to 21 – the first time he has surpassed 20 in back-to-back league campaigns.

Asked if Benzema is a contender to win the Ballon d'Or, Karembeu said: "Zizou himself said it, all his players deserve the Ballon d'Or, so that includes Karim as well, obviously.

"Karim has always played efficiently in all of his games and he has also scored plenty of goals every season, in all competitions.

"He knew how to move between the lines when Cristiano [Ronaldo] was there but can also offer himself to lead the attack when he needs to.

"He knew to play with [Gonzalo] Higuain, with [Alvaro] Morata, with Cristiano, and with [Gareth] Bale. And now he's still there, still efficient as ever."

Madrid's defence was key to their LaLiga triumph and if they let in fewer than three against Leganes on Sunday they will set a club record for the fewest goals conceded in a 38-game season.

Captain Sergio Ramos has been central to that effort, while he has contributed 10 goals to equal the most prolific LaLiga campaign by a defender since the turn of the millennium.

Ramos has entered the final year of his contract but expressed a hope to retire at Madrid amid their title celebrations, and Karembeu detailed how important he is to the team.

"I think Sergio Ramos is the key player for Los Blancos," said Karembeu.

"He's the captain. He's a role model for everyone. He's a warrior, he does his job. He also enjoys the game, but when they have to win, he knows how to raise his level and inspire Real Madrid to victory.

"When he signed for Real Madrid and took Fernando Hierro's number on his jersey, a defender who had scored many goals, I already knew he'd be a success.

"Sergio is doing very well. He has surpassed everyone. When he's playing good, the whole squad is playing good."

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