As well as being a terrific coach for Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane has also proven himself as a renowned scout.
His ability to pick out top talent over the years shows that he could easily be Real Madrid’s sporting director, and his respect in the game makes it extremely tough for players to turn him down.
Zidane’s list of discoveries is long and successful, and not just a coach but also during his time as a player where he would frequently recommended individuals for both the French national team and for Real Madrid.
His first major pick was Franck Ribery back in 2004, when the Frenchman, while at Madrid, noticed the skilful winger at Metz.
“He will be one of the best players in France,” he said of the then 20-year-old.
A year later, Ribery signed for Marseille and Zidane pressed for his compatriot to be a starter at the World Cup in Germany, in which he became a key player for Les Bleus reached the final of that World Cup.
When he was a Bayern player, he recommended Florentino Perez to sign him for Madrid but, by then, such an operation was impossible.
The Frenchman noticed the Belgian when he was just 16 years old while at Lille, and instructed Real Madrid to sign him some years later, but Chelsea got their quicker.
Zidane knew that Hazard had potential even as a teenager and time proved him right. Los Blancos eventually had to cough up 120 million euros to sign him from the Blues last summer.
Raphael Varane is another example of Zidane’s eye for a talent.
In 2012, when he was simply an advisor to Florentino Perez, Zidane recommended the signing of the teenage defender who played for Lens.
Zidane was not only responsible for recommending him but also convinced the player himself with a personal phone call.
“It was impossible to say no,” Varane later said of that conversation.
These personal phone calls have often proven key in helping Madrid land their targets.
In 2013, when Isco had a choice between signing for Manchester City or Real Madrid, a call from Zidane swayed the playmaker to move to the Spanish capital.
He had a similar effect on Marco Asensio who was also wanted by Barcelona while still at Real Mallorca.
Gambles that paid off
As a coach, Zidane has made a number of risky decisions which, although at first seemed crazy, ended up coming off.
The Frenchman was the first to put his faith in Casemiro despite a timid start in the Real Madrid first team, and is now an undisputed starter.
Something similar has occurred with Fede Valverde, who has burst into the first team this season under the full confidence of his coach.
And while Sergio Reguilon’s omission from the team was unpopular upon Zidane’s return last season, his gamble on Ferland Mendy for 50 million euros is already showing that it was a wise decision.
Key in ‘Operation Mbappe’
Due to his adoration in France for his exploits as a player and his acclaim as a world class coach, Zidane is now fundamental in Real Madrid’s hopes of landing Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint Germain.
Mbappe himself has frequently mentioned his admiration for Zidane, as the coach has for the player in return.
If Los Blancos end up landing the PSG star, it could go down as Zidane’s greatest scalp yet.