Santiago Solari tells UEFA.com his former team-mate Zinédine Zidane has "brought a freshness and enthusiasm" to Real Madrid as coach, and is getting a response from his players.
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Former Real Madrid winger Santiago Solari is thrilled to see his former team-mate Zinédine Zidane bringing some sparkle to his old club as coach, having replaced Rafael Benítez in January.
"He's brought a freshness and enthusiasm to the team, and the team have responded," the 39-year-old told UEFA.com. "And obviously this is just the start, everyone's hoping this will continue over time."
Solari has "great memories" of playing alongside Zidane at Madrid from 2000–05, as part of a star-studded selection featuring the likes of Raúl González, Roberto Carlos, Fernando Hierro, Luís Figo, Fernando Morientes, Iker Casillas and Claude Makelele. The Argentinian feels that while Zidane was never much of a talker, his presence and experience stand in him in great stead as a coach.
"He is probably the most elegant player of all time – you could compare him to Diego Maradona," Solari noted. "He was a silent leader – he didn't lead with his words but through his actions. He always wanted the ball and always wanted to win, and he put in the effort in terms of defending too. As a person he is rather quiet and shy. [Players will respond to] all of the knowledge he's gained throughout his career and watch him with admiration."
Even the youngest Merengues players will have seen the superb volley Zidane scored in the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League final against Leverkusen – a goal in which Solari played a significant part, delivering the ball to Roberto Carlos to whip across for Zidane.
"There are a lot of myths about that goal," he joked. "The only good thing was my pass – the rest was luck. Seriously ... that shot by Zidane was simply wonderful. It's a perfect hit in every sense, not just aesthetically but also in terms of the touch and the whole movement, volleying from that height on the turn. And also in a difficult position and with the wrong foot. It's just a marvellous goal."
Has Zidane overlooked Solari's role in that moment of magic? "No, I won't let him forget," laughed Solari. "Normally when they show reruns of the goal, they cut out my part because the set-up isn't so interesting – the goal is what everyone wants to see."