Monday, June 27, 2022

Friends become foes as Bayern and Real renew rivalry

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Real Madrid players pose for a team photo before the Club World Cup football final match between Kashima Antlers of Japan and Real Madrid of Spain at Yokohama International stadium in Yokohama on December 18, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

The last time Real Madrid met Bayern Munich in a long and storied rivalry three years ago, Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti sat side-by-side celebrating one of their finest European nights.

Back then Zidane was Ancelotti’s assistant as together they ended a 12-year wait for Madrid’s 10th European Cup.

Now, discarded by Real, Ancelotti is aiming to end Madrid’s reign as European champions.

Zidane, meanwhile, is tasked with plotting the downfall of his old boss and mentor in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg.

“It will be master against pupil for sure,” Zidane said after the draw was made.

“I was his assistant, I learned a lot from him.

“He is someone that I appreciate a lot and who was appreciated here (in Madrid) a lot.”

That appreciation wasn’t enough for Real president Florentino Perez, who sacked Ancelotti just a year after winning the Champions League in 2015.

His replacement Rafael Benitez lasted barely seven months in charge before also being dismissed, handing Zidane his first senior managerial role.

The move appears to have been a masterstroke as Zidane too won the Champions League last season.

However, remembering Ancelotti’s downfall, he has insisted in recent days that no Real coach is safe without success under Perez.

The Frenchman may need to win La Liga or the Champions League again to be assured of remaining in the job next season.

“You know the importance of this club, I know what the role entails for good and bad and so I am prepared for anything,” he said ahead of Saturday’s 1-1 derby draw with Atletico Madrid.

– Affable influence –
Zidane also played under Ancelotti at Juventus and certain traits of his managerial style have clearly been influenced by the affable Italian.

The often combustible Real dressing room has been calmed during Zidane’s tenure by his laid-back approach and respect for his achievements as a player.

As two of only seven men to win the competition as a player and a coach, Zidane and Ancelotti are already synonymous with the history of the Champions League.

More records await Ancelotti if he can succeed where Pep Guardiola failed in delivering Bayern the Champions League.

Having also won the competition twice with AC Milan, Ancelotti would become the first man to win it in charge of three different clubs.

Should Bayern knock Real off their perch, revenge will surely have been a motivating factor.

Madrid’s 4-0 win in Bavaria in 2014 was Bayern’s heaviest ever European home defeat.

Ancelotti, meanwhile, has scores of his own to settle with the Spanish giants.

“He has been thinking about this game for some time,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

“He wants to win at any cost.”

For Madrid, motivation comes from the chance to become the first side to retain the competition in the Champions League era.

Yet, despite being friends and former colleagues, it is something else that Zidane and Ancelotti have in common that will divide them on Wednesday — a love of winning.

“With all due respect, when the match comes round it is one I will want to win and he too will want to win,” added Zidane.

“There is nothing more that will come into account.”

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