Zinedine Zidane, who will manage his first game for Real Madrid on Saturday, commands respect. The greatest French soccer player of all time, Zidane has a lordly aura. But it’s not the kind that derives from condescending or resting on laurels. Just the opposite. As Guy Lacombe, a colleague, told The Guardian: “He is a simple person despite the immense aura that he now has in the football world. He is reserved and only speaks when he has something to say. But he is very attentive and really listens to people.”
Whereas a superstar player may get by without some of those qualities, a successful manager requires enormous attentiveness — not just to x’s and o’s but to emotional swings and more. Zidane’s very presence alters the gravitational forces in the clubhouse — he carries an important weight especially when the names on the Madrid jerseys are Ronaldo, Bale, Rodriguez and Benzema. And there can be little doubt about what Zidane wants from his players — often an ambiguity that dooms a less decorated manager. What Zidane wants from his players is for them to perform unrelentingly. Like this: Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait — “the greatest film about football ever made” — simply follows him around the pitch.