Zinedine Zidane has followed up an amazing playing career with what has the makings of being an equally impressive run as a manager. His first season in charge of Real Madrid produced a UEFA Champions League title, and he is on the verge of a potential Champions League-La Liga double in his second year.
It is a level of managerial success that wasn't expected, at least not so quickly. Not even by Kaka, who knows him and Real Madrid well.
"When I was there, I had (Zidane) as a second coach for (Jose) Mourinho, and he started doing very good but I think it’s a big surprise for everybody," former Madrid star Kaka told Goal .
"He was an amazing player, and he’s smart, he’s intelligent, but the results he’s been having this season is incredible. He can win the league and he can win the Champions League, so it’s very, very good results for just two years as a professional coach. So congratulations to Zidane."
Zidane's time away from the game lasted four years before then-manager Mourinho appointed him as special advisor to Real Madrid's first team, which allowed the Frenchman to transition back into the club. A stint as Real Madrid's sporting director soon followed, as did time as Carlo Ancelotti's assistant, as well as a run as the manager of the second team. He replaced fired Real Madrid boss Rafa Benitez midway through the 2015-16 season, guiding Los Blancos to the club's 11th Champions League title.
Zidane has been a rare exception of a superstar player making a smooth and successful transition into managing, which could serve as inspiration for other star players to follow a similar career track. Kaka isn't thinking about being a manager just yet, but his thoughts on the subject reveal that Zidane didn't have that career in mind either when he retired as a player in 2006.
"(Managing) is not something that i’m thinking (about) right now, but I don’t know, maybe in the future," Kaka said. "Zidane is a good example of that. When we were (at Real Madrid) we talked a lot and he told me one day that when he stopped playing he didn’t want to be a coach, he just wanted to stay with his family and enjoy life a little bit, travel around.
"And after two, three years he missed it ... the field, the smell of the grass, and he thought, ‘No, maybe it’s time to get back and start to learn more about soccer off the field.’ Then he did the coach course, and he became Castilla and youth teams coach for Real Madrid. Then after that he became the first-team coach.
"So I think that’s a good example for me, maybe, but now it’s not something I think about, but maybe in the future."
Zidane will look to guide Real Madrid to their 12th Champions League title when they face Juventus in the final on June.