La Liga : Zinedine Zidane takes Real Madrid practice for the first time
Thousands of Real Madrid supporters applauded Zinedine Zidane at the Valdebebas training ground as he put his players through their paces for the first time since being appointed manager until at least the end of the season.
The 43-year-old was announced as Rafa Benitez’s replacement on Monday in a decision which has ignited excitement among fans.
The Frenchman, preparing his side for his first match in charge against seventh-placed Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday at the Bernabeu, did not have Gareth Bale in attendance at the open session.
Bale is believed to be doing gym work away from the team after sustaining some muscle tweaks in the 2-2 draw with Valencia, in which he scored Madrid’s second. He was the only senior player not to take part in Zidane’s first session, watched by 6,000 fans.
The Welshman has already been linked with a move away from Madrid and could potentially head back to England after Benitez’s departure.
Former Liverpool, Chelsea and Napoli boss Benitez left Madrid after only seven months in charge, overseeing 25 games and 17 victories.
Madrid are third in La Liga, two points behind Barcelona and four behind leaders Atletico Madrid. Barcelona have a game in hand on both Madrid clubs due to their participation in the Club World Cup.
Benitez’s last game was the 2-2 draw with Gary Neville’s Valencia at Mestalla on Sunday as they missed the chance to move level on points with Barcelona, who had drawn with Espanyol earlier in the day.
Zidane was unveiled as manager of the club on Monday and pledged to win a trophy this season.
Zidane said: ‘This is an important day for me. I’m more excited now than I was when I signed as a player.
‘I will be working hard with all the players and I think that it will go well. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is when the work starts. I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well.
‘We have the best club and fans in the world. What we must do now, and what I will try to do, is all that is possible so that this team wins something at the end of the season. Thank you everyone.’
Madrid were kicked out of the Copa del Rey after fielding an ineligible player, meaning their two remaining chances of silverware are the league and the Champions League, where they face Roma in the last 16.
Zidane’s previous coaching experience comes with the Real Madrid B side, as well as acting as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at the club.
As a player, his trophy haul included the World Cup with France in 1998, as well as La Liga in 2003 and the Champions League in 2002 with Madrid.
He also won two Serie A titles in five years with Juventus.