Real Madrid have seen many coaches come and go over the years but none in recent memory can claim to have such a command over the playing staff that Zinedine Zidane has nurtured during his time in the dugout.
No one inside the club can imagine having a dressing room so dedicated and affectionate towards their coach as the Frenchman shows time and time again exactly how best to manage the team.
Zidane has a reputation for making tough decisions and sometimes these aren’t initially well received by his players, but he delivers his verdict with a tact that comes from his time as an elite player and avoids controversy or rifts.
Take for example, the fury at Paris Saint-Germain when Unai Emery benched Angel Di Maria in the last-16 first leg at Los Blancos recently, and the even greater furore surrounding Edinson Cavani and Neymar’s penalty dispute.
In Madrid, Gareth Bale has recently been benched for big games and simply gotten on with the job, whereas Cristiano Ronaldo handed a spot-kick to Karim Benzema in a show of support for his teammate in the game with Alaves.
The basis behind Zidane’s confidence in making big calls is that he tends to get them right.
Currently it is Bale and Isco but Raphael Varane, Pepe, James Rodriguez, and Marco Asensio have all been effectively shunned by their coach and most have reacted by getting their head down and coming out the other side.
In the dressing room, neither of the currently out of favour players say a bad word about Zidane and that extends to their interactions with the media, a courtesy that the 45-year-old always pays his troops.
Never does he criticize any individual when speaking to the press and that respect is echoed, formed around a mutual bond that comes from each party being willing to give their all for the good of one another.
While many outside the Real Madrid setup praise Zidane for his man management, they often leave the tactical praise for the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, however the LaLiga champions’ squad see it differently.
In the build-up to Los Merengues’ Champions League final with Juventus, the coach explained every drill that he put his squad through with the intention of re-enacting them during the game in Cardiff.
As a result, three of the four goals scored by Madrid that night were already rehearsed moves that generated a huge belief among the players in what their boss was telling them.
That said, it is still in the personal aspect of the job that Zidane thrives and his time as a player has no doubt been integral to this.
Leaving training by a different door to his players, the former midfielder leaves them for a period of time to reflect and maybe vent frustrations before personally speaking to them and going over each man’s progression.
These talks are held in his office, in private, and can last for an hour as he covers everything that is important to each player from specialist aspects of their game to wider issues in their personal life, leaving no stone unturned and in response developing a deep bond with a team that has given him almost everything out on the pitch.