Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane looks on during a match. Photo: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

Who better to give you due respect than your peers?

There is simply just an incredible amount of awe for Zinedine Zidane, the Real Madrid manager, here.

Both former and current players talk of his success with great admiration for a man they encounter every day and rubbed shoulders with during his playing days at Juventus and Los Blancos.

“All his life he has known football,” says Fernando Sanz, who left Real just months before Zidane joined in 2001, but played against him in LaLiga having joined Malaga.

“We are talking here about an experienced and highly intelligent individual. Some coaches have football in their blood, and Zidane is one of those.

“For me, the most impressive thing about his work is the psychology. He is very similar to Vincente del Bosque (ex-Real and Spain national team coach), whose psychology was incredible.

“Zidane was the most successful in his team and right now in less than two years, he has achieved more than any other coach ever has at the club.”

That’s no exaggeration.

The jury was out on whether Zidane would inspire a resurgence of some kind when he was appointed Real manager following the sacking of Rafa Benitez in January last year.

Was he experienced enough? Was he ready? Would he be able to deal with the egos - captain Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale?

Since then, Zidane has won the European Champions League twice, clinched the LaLiga title once, collected two Super Cup trophies and the same amount of Fifa Club World Cup titles, including, most recently, Fifa Best Manager for 2017.

“I have played with him in some matches with the legends of Real Madrid, and when you are with him he doesn’t talk too much, but his mentality is amazing,” Sanz explains.

“The results are just incredible. He is the coach of Real, has the best players in the world - he can take the best players in the world. But at the end of the day you still have to win.

“Rafa Benitez is also an incredible coach, but the psychology of Zidane is unmatched.”

Sanz is adamant that the Frenchman, also a 1998 World Cup winner with his native country, carries an astonishing aura about him.

Maybe that is what will inspire Real in today’s “El Clasico” (2pm SA time kick-off) against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where Los Blancos will hope to close the 11-point gap currently being enjoyed by their biggest rivals at the top of LaLiga.

“If the coach was, in the past, a very successful player that means he is their idol,” Sanz said of Zidane.

“I think he is 100 percent the idol of all the players. I think one of the issues when Benitez was the manager is that he didn’t have such a great track record as a player.

“My opinion is that, for Real players, it was important to have someone who was an incredible player.

"Imagine if your idol is in the room with you every day.”

* Molefe is a guest of LaLiga in Spain ahead of today’s El Clasico

Saturday Star

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