Real ‘built to win’ the Euro final
Spanish team targets 13th Champions League title
Zinedine Zidane’s remarkable run to three consecutive Champions League finals as Real Madrid coach should be no surprise because the former midfielder "inspires success", says his former France teammate Christian Karembeu.
Karembeu, a double European Cup winning midfielder with Real, won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with France alongside Zidane. The Madrid boss is bidding to become the first coach to win the Champions League three times in a row when his side meet Liverpool on Saturday in Kiev.
"No, I’m not surprised. He inspires success," Karembeu said. "He is a hard worker, he hates to lose, he wants perfection, he wants quality and you can see Zidane’s prints on this Madrid team. The passing has to be good, the players have to be in the right position, you need to attack quickly and you can see his influence on what this team does on the pitch.
"Of course, when you look at the names of the players you see the talent there, but talent alone does not bring you success."
Karembeu said Zidane did not express any great desire to be a coach when he was a player, but his experience makes him the ideal man to lead this Madrid side, which is brimming with world-class players.
"He’s a former footballer with knowledge and expertise, and that’s great for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric. There are so many success stories with that man, he can inspire you and he can also boost the team. Zidane didn’t change any players. It’s more or less the same squad as before, but with his aura, his way of thinking and approach to everyone, he has delivered something positive and successful."
Zidane has been lauded by his players for his handling of the dressing room and keeping his cool under pressure, something he has had to do a lot this season as Real floundered in La Liga, finishing 17 points behind runaway winners Barcelona.
Madrid also put poor domestic campaigns to one side in emphatic fashion when Karembeu played for them, winning the 1997-98 Champions League after coming fourth in La Liga and lifting the trophy again in 1999-2000 after finishing fifth.
"It’s not easy to focus on three or four targets. When you are carrying yourself to one goal its easier," said Karembeu, who was born in former French colony New Caledonia, moving to France aged 17 and making his professional debut with Nantes. "Everyone wants to win the double or treble, but it’s not easy. Most players are playing more than 60 games.
"It’s not easy for Madrid to repeat the same success, they are humans, not robots.
"But to do well in the Champions League you need a different type of commitment. Madrid have it in their DNA."
The 1998 win over Juventus was Madrid’s first European Cup win since 1966 and paved the way for another continental dynasty after winning the first five editions of the competition between 1956 and 1960.
In Kiev, they will be hoping to win it for the 13th time.
"The Champions League is built for Real Madrid, they have this in their blood and the other teams are only challengers," said Karembeu. " Their five wins with Alfredo Di Stefano were incredible. Then, 32 years later we brought back that atmosphere, that belief."