‘Fighter’ Zidane as good a coach as he was a player, says Klopp

Zinedine Zidane finds himself in a position to win a third Champions League title despite only becoming Real coach in January 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 25 May 2018
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‘Fighter’ Zidane as good a coach as he was a player, says Klopp

  • Jurgen Klopp: “If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactical things — because a lot of people think that about me — that would be really funny.”
  • Zidane’s detractors see him more as a supervisor of a supremely talented squad rather than a tactical genius.

KIEV: Jurgen Klopp is in no doubt that Zinedine Zidane has shown himself to be as good a coach as he was during a wonderful playing career, as the two men prepare to lead their Liverpool and Real Madrid sides into Saturday’s Champions League final.
“If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactical things — because a lot of people think that about me — that would be really funny,” Klopp told media at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on the eve of the game.
Zidane finds himself in a position to win a third Champions League title despite only becoming Real coach in January 2016.
If he does that, the 45-year-old would equal Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti as the only coaches to have won the European Cup three times.
Despite that, Zidane’s detractors see him more as a supervisor of a supremely talented squad rather than a tactical genius.
Klopp, who arrived at Anfield in October 2015, added: “Zidane for me is one of the best five players of all time in football.
“Since two and a half years now, I am longer at Liverpool than he is at Real Madrid and he can win for the third time the Champions League.
“You have to expect he is brilliant, like he was as a player. His players and him seem to work like a clock from Switzerland.”
While Zidane was a Champions League and World Cup winner as a player, Klopp’s own playing career in his native Germany was modest.
The two have taken different paths in the game, having come from very different backgrounds.
“Zinedine Zidane was his whole life a fighter growing up in Marseille in the area where he has grown up, and to have his kind of career, you need to be a fighter,” said the German.
“Only when he was a player, he didn’t look like that.
“I saw his face when someone asked him in a press conference about hunger, and he got angry — the same would happen to me and I am from a small village in the Black Forest.”
Klopp and his captain Jordan Henderson faced a huge gathering of media in the Ukrainian capital on Friday along with Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk.
All of them appeared relaxed ahead of the game, as they hope to secure Liverpool’s sixth European Cup, and a first since the unforgettable defeat of AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005.
To do so Liverpool must end Real’s reign as European champions as the Spanish giants go for a 13th European crown in Kiev.
“We’ve done fantastically well to get to this point,” Henderson said.
“We want to go one step further and be remembered for the right reasons and that is winning the Champions League.”
Liverpool’s return among the European elite is largely attributed to Klopp’s impact as manager.
However, the German has lost his last five finals, including the Europa League final in 2016 when Liverpool lost 3-1 to Sevilla.
And Henderson believes the English giants can use the pain of that defeat for a different outcome against Madrid.
“It hurt that night, but you can use that as motivation going forward and we’ve done that since that night.
“But it’s also important for us to win trophies and hopefully we can start that tomorrow.
“The club have won the competition a few times so it is the DNA of the club to win trophies. We want to win the trophy for fans and the club and we’re certainly going in the right direction.”


Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

Updated 31 min 19 sec ago
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Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

  • Lebanon have made it to their first Asian Cup since 2000 and are up to 77th in world rankings.
  • Oumari feels the Cedars have what it takes to upset a few of the big guns.

LONDON: While much of the focus ahead of the Asian Cup will be on defending champions Australia, who are one of the favorites, along with Japan and South Korea, Lebanon’s Joan Oumari is hoping his side can grab people’s attention and cause a shock or two.
The Cedars’ last appearance at the tournament came back in 2000 when they were hosts — this is the first time they have qualified for the tournament on merit.
Since their FIFA world ranking fell to 147 in 2016, Lebanon have been one of Asia’s most improved and in-form teams, with their ranking jumping to its current position of 77 — the highest in their history.
Drawn alongside regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Qatar and North Korea in Group E, it will not be easy, but Oumari, one of their star players, is convinced they can put on a show when the tournament gets under way in January.
“I think when we play and stay like we are now we can go far,” the defender told Arab News. “In football everything is possible and we have a great team.”
Oumari knows that just being back at the Asian Cup after a 19-year absence is already a victory for the nation of six million people.
“For sure it is a great thing for us as a national team, but also for all the people (of Lebanon),” the 30-year-old said. “I hope we will write history and get very far in this tournament.”
Oumari’s journey to play for the Cedars is an interesting, and not unfamiliar one in the recent climate of war, family displacement and refugees. His parents, both born in Lebanon, fled the country during the civil war of the 1970s, making their way to Germany, where Oumari was born in 1988.
Starting his professional career in the lower divisions, he gradually worked his way through the professional tiers of club football in Germany, playing for SV Babelsberg in the fourth division, FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt in the third tier, before making the step up to FSV Frankfurt in 2.Bundesliga in 2013.
Along the way he came to the attention of the Lebanon Football Association, and when the invitation came to join the Cedars in 2013, there was no hesitation in accepting and representing the country of his heritage, if not his birth.
“When I got the invitation from the national team for sure I didn’t have to think about it,” he recalled. “I was very proud to play for the national team.”
His debut in a 2-0 win against Syria in September 2013 did not go to plan, however, getting sent off late in the game. His next appearance would not come for almost two years after Miodrag Radulovic had taken over as coach.
“To be honest it was my decision not to play for the national team for these two years,” he said.
“The main reason was our ex-coach (Giuseppe) Giannini, because after he invited me to the national team I was on the bench and I am not used to flying all over the world just to sit on the bench.
“I am not a player who sits on the bench in my club and not in the national team. After Mr. Radulovic started at the national team the federation called me and convinced me to come.”
The change in fortunes for the Cedars since Radulovic took over has been remarkable, and as it stands they are one of the most in-form teams in Asia, going 16 games without a loss dating back to March 2016.
A friendly match with defending Asian Cup champions Australia in Sydney next month will be sure to provide tougher competition, but given their form they travel to Sydney confident of causing an upset.
While the Asian Cup is within touching distance, Oumari’s immediate focus is on club matters and trying to help his side avoid relegation. Having made the move to Japan’s Sagan Tosu, becoming the first Lebanese player to play in the J.League, Oumari has been in and out of a side that has struggled for consistency and currently lie 17th in the 18-team league.
“I hope that we can avoid relegation and stay up, that’s why I came to help the team,” he said.
One of his new teammates in Japan is Spanish World Cup winner Fernando Torres, and despite the team’s struggles on the field, Oumari is loving his time in Japan.
“It’s really nice here and I like it very much,” he said. “I am enjoying the time with my teammates after training. For sure Fernando (Torres) is a great football player and any football player can learn from him no matter which position you are playing.”