Solari out to emulate his former Champions League team-mate Zidane

They won the tournament together in 2002. Now with Zinedine Zidane's record as a coach in the competition better than anyone else's, Santiago Solari begins the ominous task of following him in the Champions League.

Barcelona -By Peter Jenson, – Santiago Solari was Zinedine Zidane’s team-mate in 2002 when Real Madrid won their ninth European Cup at Hampden Park.

He played the pass to Roberto Carlos, who in turn gave the ball to the Frenchman who then scored one of the competition’s greatest ever goals in the 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
He shared the celebrations as Real Madrid toasted their success in Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel. Now Solari needs some of his former team-mate’s Champions League magic to rub-off on him once more.
It was always going to be hard for anyone to follow Zidane. The first to attempt it, Julen Lopetegui, has already been sacked.
Solari has subsequently been promoted from his B-team role with third-tier Real Madrid Castilla to take charge of the senior side.
He has four games of a chance to make the job permanently his. And he has already won his first two matches in two different competitions.
But after victories over Melilla in the Spanish Cup and Valladolid at home in the league, he now has two slightly trickier tasks.
This weekend the team go to Vigo to play Celta and on Wednesday they face Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.
Their opponents are, on paper, the weakest team in the group but Real Madrid, lying sixth in La Liga and seven points off the leaders are not in a position to take any opponent lightly.
“We are all just passing through,” said Solari when he was asked about the word “temporary” being rubber-stamped on his current job description.
He is a club man and knows why there are so many jokes about Real Madrid head coach’s office having a revolving door and an ejector seat behind the desk.
Real cannot secure progress from Group G on Wednesday but victory would put them in the driving seat for a spot in the last 16.
Solari is Florentino Perez’s 13th different coach in his two spells as president at the club and the executive is not easing up despite the difficult start.
"We've got a great squad which has proved that it's capable of winning everything going," he said at a recent club event. "I want to state that all of our targets for this season remain intact."
Solari's chances of keeping the job permanently may rest with another scorer of spectacular Champions League final goals.
Just five months after he produced a Zidane-like volley in Kiev to help Real Madrid win their 13th continental crown, Gareth Bale was whistled and jeered on Saturday before being taken off in the team’s narrow win over Valladolid.
There is pressure on Solari to play 18-year-old Vinicius Junior in his place after the Brazilian boy-wonder came on and provoked an own-goal.
Bale has won four Champions Leagues and a league title in five years at Madrid and he is unlikely to be edged out by the teenager just yet but he needs to turn his form around to justify his selection.
If he fails to score against Viktoria Plzen then he will have gone nine games without a goal and surpassed his previous longest dry spell at the club.  
He was taken off in Julen Lopetegui’s last game in charge in the heavy defeat to Barcelona and he has now suffered the same fate in Solari’s first match in charge.
The good news for him is that Real Madrid’s next four games are away from the Bernabeu and Bale will hope to be under less pressure the next time he plays at home.
And Solari will hope that by then he has the Real Madrid job on a permanent basis. Emulating Zidane in Madrid’s favourite competition will be key.


Tuesday, November 6th 2018
By Peter Jenson,

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