Zidane on cusp of greatness as Real take on Atletico in Champions League final | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 27.05.2016
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Zidane on cusp of greatness as Real take on Atletico in Champions League final

Few truly great players have found success as coaches. Zinedine Zidane is on the brink of winning the Champions League with Real Madrid less than six months after being appointed - but Atletico Madrid stand in his way.

The late Johan Cruyff. Franz Beckenbauer maybe. The list of really great players who went on to also win top silverware while in the dugout are few and far between.

Former France maestro Zinedine Zidane (pictured above), who masterminded their World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000 triumphs on the pitch as well as having inspired Real Madrid to a 2002 Champions League title, could be about to join that elite group.

Saturday's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in Milan offers Real coach Zidane the chance to get his hands on European club football's most glittering prize less than six month after taking charge.

Few could have expected such a rapid successful rise for a coach who as a player was quiet at times and explosively hot headed at others, as Italy's Marco Materazzi can testify after being headbutted in the chest in the 2006 World Cup final.

His only managerial experience before replacing the sacked Rafa Benitez in January was 18 months spent at Real's B team.

"Playing for Real Madrid was the best thing that ever happened to me," Zidane said this week. "I dreamed of playing for Real Madrid - I wanted to wear that famous white shirt. Now I'm lucky enough to coach the greatest club in the world, so I'm a happy man."

The saying goes that great players do not make great managers. Their skills on the field were so awe inspiring that they find it difficult to work with players who are less talented than they were. Frustration therefore sets in. But not with Zidane it seems.

Cruyff, who along with Zidane would make it into most fans' list of top 10 players, won the European Cup three times with Ajax in the 1970s and lifted the same trophy as a coach when Barcelona triumphed for the first time in 1992.

Beckenbauer was a three-time European Cup winner as a player with Bayern Munich and led Germany to victory in the 1974 World Cup. He repeated that trick as coach in the 1990 World Cup and was in charge when Bayern won the 1994 Bundesliga title - however his time guiding things from the touchline was short-lived.

The other greats such as Pele, Diego Maradona, Michel Platini, Alfredo di Stefano or Ferenc Puskas had either no or only a modicum of managerial success.

But Zidane is not there yet. If the 2014 final between the two Madrid sides is anything to go by, Atletico will give their more glamorous city rivals a run for their money.

Trainer Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone's side were just seconds away from victory in Lisbon until Sergio Ramos levelled the score at 1-1 three minutes into stoppage time. Real went on to win 4-1 in extra time.

Real's big players are little changed from two years ago. Real superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had a slight injury scare during the week but has declared himself fit. The world's most expensive player, Gareth Bale, has grown into his role and could be another matchwinner.

Germany midfielder Toni Kroos joined straight after that 2014 triumph but has quietly cemented his place in the midfield. His incisive passing could make a difference.

Atletico might lack the glitz of Real but they make up for it with hard work and superb organization. Simeone has them so well drilled that they saw off holders Barcelona and otherwise rampant Bayern Munich in the last two rounds.

"We've already played two of the top three teams in the world and now we're facing the third in the final. We'll be ready and will look to play the game on our terms," Simeone told UEFA.com.

Atletico's France striker Antoine Griezmann has been one of the form players in Europe this season and will hope the absence through injury of Real defender Raphael Varane exposes Zidane's backline.

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