During his playing day, Zinedine Zidane typically let his football do the talking. Twelve years after retirement, though, eight words were all that were required to set the footballing world aflutter.
“I am definitely going to coach again soon,” he told Spanish television station RTVE. “It’s what I like doing and it’s what I’ve done my whole life.”
Barely three months after he led Real Madrid to a third successive Champions League title – an achievement unprecedented in the modern era – it seems that the icon has his batteries recharged and is ready for a new challenge.
Where that challenge lies, though, is less clear.
As former team-mate Claude Makelele explained, such is Zidane’s pulling power due to the incredible success he enjoyed both on the field and in the dugout, he can “go where he wants”.
Or almost. A vacancy must be available. And, of course, it is impossible to imagine the hero of France’s 1998 World Cup success going anywhere other than one of the game’s biggest names.
The widely held feeling is that he is destined one day to lead the national team, though Didier Deschamps’ decision to stay on after helping Les Bleus to a second world crown in the summer means that any plans Zidane has in that regard will be pushed back until after Euro 2020 at the earliest, barring unforeseen circumstances.
Having attained iconic status in Turin, it is a move that would surely appeal to the former playmaker; not least because Cristiano Ronaldo, a player he knows so well from his time in Spain, is now leading the Bianconeri attack.
Paris Saint-Germain have also been mentioned in dispatches, though Zidane’s heritage as a proud Marseillaise complicates a potential deal due to the frosty relationship that citizens of the port city have with those in the capital.
If it were to come off – and it is not a possibility for now due to the recent appointment of Thomas Tuchel – it would be a controversial move.
Perhaps the likeliest path leads him to Manchester United, where Jose Mourinho is embroiled in what has become his trademark third-season slump. With two wins from four Premier League matches and the manager’s behaviour increasingly erratic, ‘Mou’ is currently the bookies’ favourite to win the sack race.
Zidane’s words will certainly have piqued the interest of CEO Ed Woodward, whose relationship with his manager has grown increasingly difficult following a transfer window in which target after target was missed and the defence not reinforced at all, despite a glaring need to do so.
United certainly match the calibre of club that would interest Zidane, and if he is indeed looking to get back into the managerial game as “soon” as he suggested, it would appear to be the logical choice.
On the field, Zidane was an illusive and mercurial character, capable of doing the unexpected. Now we must bide our time to see if he is as unpredictable in the dugout.