One of the many advantages that former stars have in managing the current crop, aside from automatically having their respect, is the ability to do everything they can. In the case of Zinedine Zidane, a little bit more too.
The French manager was in charge of one of the most impressive squads ever assembled, including a front-line of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. He could still mix it with the best though, even at the age of 44.
Speaking to BILD, former Real Madrid youngster Philip Lienhart described what it was like training under the magician. Currently of Freiburg in the Bundesliga, Marca also carried the quotes.
“One time we were practicing free-kicks. The players didn’t score a single free-kick. He took the ball and said: ‘Look lads, this is how it’s done’, then he put the ball right in the postage stamp. That made it very clear to everyone just how incredible he was as a footballer.”
No doubt it would have been an incredible experience learning from Zidane. Lienhart also commented on how much Portuguese defender Pepe taught him, including how different he was in character outside of the 90 minutes the public see.
“Pepe is known as an aggressive defender. In the dressing room however, I got to know him as extremely nice and a very accommodating person. During a tactical exercise he gave me advice on how to defend side-on and not with both feet facing forward. That way you can defend quickly behind you and quickly in front of you at the same time. I still take that advice very seriously today.”
Pepe’s on-field persona has come back to bite him though – the Porto defender is awaiting the result of a potential multi-year ban after kicking Sporting coach Hugo Viana in a brawl.