Real winner: would another Clasico success convince the world of Zidane's coaching credentials?

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The Frenchman is still seen as more of a motivator than a tactician by many but is proving to be much more than that and a victory would show that he should be taken seriously


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The charmed life continues for Zinedine Zidane. Now 48 games into his Real Madrid tenure and unbeaten in his last 32 across all competitions, the Frenchman has lost only twice ahead of this weekend's Clasico at Camp Nou. So surely it is time to admit that he is more than just a lucky coach.

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What is luck anyway? Is it something completely random or a commodity that comes to those who deserve it? "The harder I work, the luckier I get," veteran golfing great Gary Player once said. And when it is applied to football managers, luck is usually enjoyed by those who have prepared meticulously. Sir Alex Ferguson was often called "lucky", for example. Pep Guardiola too.

Zidane took over from Rafa Benitez as coach of Real Madrid last January and, in his 48 fixtures in charge since then, the 44-year-old has led Los Blancos to 37 wins, nine draws and just two losses. And in that time, the club have picked up two trophies - the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup.

This season, he has overseen an unbeaten run in Madrid's 21 matches so far, that despite the absence through injury of 16 players over the course of the campaign already, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Casemiro, Sergio Ramos and more at different times.

Up until now, Zidane's sole league loss remains the 1-0 defeat suffered at the hands of Atletico in the Madrid derby at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 27. So there was plenty of talk about the Frenchman's methods ahead of the recent trip to the Estadio Vicente Calderon. That looked set to be a tough test of his coaching credentials, yet he passed it with flying colours in an emphatic 3-0 win which included a change of formation that took Diego Simeone's side by surprise.

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"I have a fantastic relationship with Zidane," hat-trick hero Cristiano Ronaldo said after that match. "I was a fan of his as a player and I’m even more a fan of his as a coach. He’s a very good person and a great man. He will continue to learn as a manager."

Zidane has always said that he is still learning and that is key to success for any coach. It is often noted, meanwhile, that the most gifted players rarely make great coaches, with exceptions to that rule few and far between. Johan Cruyff was one; Zizou could well go on to prove that he is another.

Still, however, he is damned with faint praise. It is often remarked that the former France icon is "a good motivator", a "popular presence in the dressing room" and "somebody liked by the players". All of that, of course, is true. But Zidane's Real record shows he is also much more than that.

With two trophies to his name already, Zidane could add a third this month as Madrid are involved in the Club World Cup. More significantly, perhaps, is the fact that Real lead Barca by six points in La Liga ahead of Saturday's showdown - and the Frenchman already has a Clasico win under his belt, too.

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That came back on April 2 when Madrid came from behind to beat Barcelona 2-1 at Camp Nou in the Primera Division to get themselves back into the title race, ultimately missing out on glory by a single point at the end of the season.

And after the match, which Los Blancos won thanks to goals from Benzema and Ronaldo following Gerard Pique's opener, Zidane's complex tactical notes were leaked to the Spanish media.

Those included detailed instructions in red and blue ink on Barca's high pressing, the importance of halting Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic in midfield, the threat of Luis Suarez with his diagonal runs, how Lionel Messi and Neymar were to be tracked by a centre-back with Casemiro dropping deep to help out and more.

Yet after the game, Zidane was called "lucky" once more. And if Madrid win again on Saturday, he will probably be happy for others to write him off again. But at this point, he has proven already that he is a genuinely good coach - and another Clasico victory would merely be further confirmation of that.

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