Exactly four months after succeeding Rafael Benitez and inheriting a Real Madrid side on the brink of institutional crisis, Zinedine Zidane completed the team's revival by guiding them past Manchester City to the Champions League final.
As Real's players celebrated reaching a
second Champions League final in three years on Wednesday, it was easy
to forget the chaotic season the club has endured.
sensationally failed to sign David de Gea on transfer deadline day in
August due to an administration error, and were further embarrassed in
December when thrown out of the King's Cup for fielding an ineligible
player against Cadiz.
There were also disappointments on the pitch
under Benitez, culminating in a 4-0 humiliation at home to rivals
Barcelona and sparking calls for president Florentino Perez to resign.
Real remain third in La Liga, the same position when Zidane arrived,
the Frenchman has quelled the protests and cut the gap with leaders
Barcelona to a single point.
Madrid are also in their best
domestic form of the season, winning 10 league games in a row and there
is an undeniable sense the players enjoy a tighter bond than under
"Zidane is doing a great job. He's helping us and we are helping him," said Cristiano Ronaldo.
admire him as a coach and a person, I hope he continues coaching us.
We've always been behind Zidane because he is a humble person who likes
to listen, and that always makes things easier."
'Galactico' Zidane heaped praise on his players but said they had not
produced the most convincing performance in edging past City 1-0 -
thanks to Gareth Bale's deflected effort in the 20th minute - in the
second leg clash.
The 1-0 aggregate result, after last week's
goalless first leg stalemate, set up a mouthwatering final on May 28
against city neighbours Atletico Madrid, who they beat to lift their
10th European crown in 2014.
"City made things difficult for us
but we're happy to be in the final. We didn't concede many chances but
the result shows we found it difficult," the 43-year-old said.
"We kept suffering until the end.