Following the departure of Rafa Benitez from the hot-seat at Real Madrid in 2016, Los Blancos turned to one of their former playing legend, Zinedine Zidane. The new boss and try to breathe some new life into a star-studded side. Zizou had been groomed for the job, being part of the backroom and coaching staff at the Bernabeu for several years. But the former World Footballer of the Year winner came into the job with no managerial experience in the Spanish Liga.
Although he could not rescue La Liga for the merengues in his forst season 2015-2016, when the 11th and then 12th European Champions Trophies arrived in Milan in 2016 and Cardiff 2017, the decision was more than vindicated. Zidane is already sure to be remembered as a Real Madrid hero equally legendary as a manager as he was as a player.
But are all Spanish Liga managers able to transfer their footballing genius to a role in the dug-out and inspire their teams to glory? Zidane is not the first former La Liga great to have a stab in the high pressured world of management. For some the transition was a triumph. Others, less so…
Whilst the current Luis Suarez is tearing up the league with his blistering displays for Barcelona, it’s worth noting that he’s not the first Luis Suarez to do so. In fact, for many an older Spanish football fan, the other Luis Suarez – aka Luisito – is considered one of the greatest players the Spanish liga has ever produced. A star man for Barcelona (among others) in the 1950s, Suarez was a classy attacking midfielder who would later inspire Spain to glory at the 1964 European Championships. Upon retiring he ventured into management, taking the plunge at first in Italy with Inter Milan, before a spell back in La Liga with Deportivo La Coruna in the late 70s. He would also go on to manage the Spanish national side, leading them in the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
The great Dutchman can legitimately claim to be a Barcelona legend both on and off the field thanks to his exploits as player and manager. As a player he was the inspirational maestro for Ajax and the Dutch team before moving his sublime skills to inspire the Catalan giants in the mid to late 70s. Following his move into management Cruyff would go onto assemble one of the great teams in the clubs gloried history through the late 80s, early 90s. Arguably the man whose managerial blueprint underpins the success of the current team, Cruyff’s side was immodestly known as the Dream Team; comprising household names such as Laudrup, Stoichkov, Romario, Koeman and Guardiola. 4 League titles, a European Cup Winner’s Cup and the European Cup suggest his reign was considered fairly successful.
A key member of that ‘Dream Team’ Pep was a stylish holding midfielder before the term holding midfielder was ever coined. After his glittering Spanish liga career drew to a close, Pep went into coaching, learning his craft with Barcelona’s youth and B teams before taking the helm in 2008. It’s fair to say that things have worked out rather well since then. His all-conquering team swept aside their rivals at home and across Europe in the following years with 3 league titles, 2 Champions Leagues and 2 World Club Championships. Now manager at Bayern Munich, Pep is considered by many to be the greatest manager currently working in world football.
Following on from Pep’s legacy is his former team mate Enrique, As a player he actually enjoyed success in the Spanish liga at both Barca and Real Madrid, as well as a regular in the Spain midfield throughout the 1990s. Following 2 years as manager of Roma, Enrique returned to the Spanish league as the boss at Celta Vigo, where he led to the team to mid table respectability in his sole season. Then, in 2014, it was announced that he was to become the new boss at Barcelona. A slow start had the doubters doubting. They needn’t have worried however, with Enqriue guiding the Messi, Neymar and Suarez led side through a simply devastating 2015 where they won the league, the Champions League and the Club World Championship with a run of breath-taking football the match of anything his predecessors could manage.
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