‘Now I’m jinxed?’ jokes Zidane

Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2017
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‘Now I’m jinxed?’ jokes Zidane

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane joked Friday that he was “jinxed” as his injury-depleted team comes under attack for their misfiring start to this season’s La Liga title defense.
“So now I’m jinxed, am I?” the Frenchman said two days after Real suffered a shock 1-0 defeat by Real Betis.
“Before I was the shining star... No, no, I’ve always been a shining star, don’t worry.
“I’m at this club and I make the absolute most of being here.
“I don’t think about bad luck, that’s part of football and the good news is that we have a match tomorrow. We have the chance to be able to change that quickly and we’ll do it.”
In the space of just five games Real have gone from red-hot La Liga title favorites to trailing rivals Barcelona by seven points.
But Zidane insisted that his team was not of the mindset that La Liga was already beyond their grip.
“You can have a 10 or 15-point deficit but in football there are highs and lows and you can experience bad moments and each team will experience them,” the 1998 World Cup winner said.
“My character is that I won’t scream for screaming’s sake or do things that are out of keeping for me.
“Tomorrow, we have a match in which to prove ourselves and I have a match to show that I’m worthy of being in this job.”
When Madrid swept a crisis-ridden Barca aside 5-1 in the Spanish Super Cup last month, Zidane’s men were expected to romp to the title.
Instead, disappointing home draws against Valencia and Levante were compounded as Real failed to score for the first time in 74 games when Real Betis became the first side other than Barca or Atletico Madrid to win at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga for six-and-a-half years on Wednesday.
Real have also been hit by injuries, with left-back Marcelo and midfielder Toni Kroos to miss Saturday’s trip to Alaves.
Brazilian Marcelo will be out for three or four weeks according to Spanish sports daily As, after suffering a thigh injury against Betis.
Midfielder Mateo Kovacic and striker Karim Benzema are already sidelined, with forward Borja Mayoral, 20, having played in Real’s last two league matches.
German international Kroos has a rib problem, but could be back for the Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund next week.
“He felt discomfort in his ribs again after the game and we didn’t want to take any risks,” Zidane said.
“I hope it’s nothing serious and he’ll be able to play on Tuesday. He’s in a bit of pain today and the match is tomorrow — we’re not going to risk it.”
Zidane added that he was happy to be coming up against his eldest son Enzo, who joined Alaves from Real’s reserves over the summer.
“I hope he won’t score because we’re competitors, him from his side and me from mine.”


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 19 July 2018
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But, not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.