Santiago Solari Thanks Zinedine Zidane After FIFA Club World Cup Record Is Set

Santiago Solari believes Real Madrid’s record haul of four Club World Cups will “be difficult to match” after Los Blancos became the most successful team in the history of the prestigious FIFA-hosted tournament on Saturday.

Real now have four Club World Cup trophies in the cabinet after beating Al Ain 4-1 in the United Arab Emirates to give former player Solari his first prize as manager after replacing Julen Lopetegui in October.

Solari also thanked Zinedine Zidane, who won the competition twice during his time in charge. Zidane also lifted three straight UEFA Champions League trophies before resigning back in May.

Real ensured they matched the hat-trick with a three-repeat in the Club World Cup. The distinction put 42-year-old Solari into some select company.

However, the Argentinian was quick to credit Zidane for making the triumph possible, per TVE (h/t FourFourTwo): “We are also here thanks to Zidane. It will be difficult to match in the future.”

Zidane and Solari were team-mates when Real won the Champions League in 2002.

Goals from Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Marcos Llorente sent Los Blancos en route to an emphatic win. Yahia Nader also turned the ball into his own net to compound Al Ain’s misery.

Solari praised the performance and underlined the breadth of Real’s impressive recent achievements, per Goal’s Jamie Smith: “This is the merit of the (Madrid) players. Win three Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups – it is something difficult to repeat. This group has made history.”

While FIFA’s gala international competition may be seen as merely a showpiece by some, Solari was quick to applaud his players’ professional approach: “I liked the seriousness that the players have given to this tournament. We made two very complete matches.”

Solari is right to laud the value of this lucrative and silverware-adorned break in Real’s domestic season. The Spanish giants have otherwise floundered somewhat in La Liga during a trying campaign.

Fortunes have improved slightly under Solari, but Los Merengues remain fourth. They are also eight points adrift of leaders and bitter rivals Barcelona, who have played a game more than Real’s 16 matches.

Solari has revived the squad after Lopetegui’s brief and ill-fated tenure. There have still been setbacks, notably a 3-0 defeat away to Eibar back in November.

Overall though, Solari has got Real back on track and into the winning habit. Apart from Eibar, he’s only lost one other game, a 3-0 home defeat to CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League when Real had already qualified from Group G.

A couple of blips aside, Solari has brought the feel-good factor back to Real. He’s done it by helping get key players such as forward Gareth Bale, who thrived during the Club World Cup, back in form:

His willingness to give more playing time to technically gifted 23-year-old Llorente, man of the match against Al Ain, is also to Solari’s credit. It shows a desire to give talented youngsters a chance to help freshen up an experienced squad.

Solari’s first trophy proves he has Los Blancos headed in the right direction. The bright young coach must now ensure he can follow Zidane’s example and collect trophies in numbers.