Zizou the Great

Zidane, during the press conference on Thursday.
Zidane, during the press conference on Thursday. / AFP
  • a look at la liga

  • Zinedine Zidane has resigned, but don't underestimate what he has achieved

Watch the tributes flow in for Zinedine Zidane... now!

As the cameras were whirring, the spotlights illuminating the squabbles of the players and the president, he just sat back as an exhausted figure who had claimed immortality by winning his third Champions League title in a row for Real Madrid.

Not that he's received the credit due to a leader who makes an often dysfunctional club perfectly functional. He's like the Hollywood director who has won Golden Globes amid bickering superstars and a cheque-writing executive producer who also wants his share of the world's adulation.

Take the weekend; before the elite European cup had been lifted Cristiano Ronaldo was ensuring that HE was going to be claiming the headlines by hinting that his Real Madrid days may be done. Then it was Bale's turn!

That was on the shop floor; up in the presidential suite Florentino Pérez was fighting back by claiming he'd now won as many European Cups as his superstar player.

How does the song go? “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, stuck in the middle...”

Amid the bickering, Zidane must be smiling to himself as he's managed to diplomatically keep the enormous egos in check all around him. He was like a ringmaster, keeping the dangerous animals apart until show time.

If Real had lost against Liverpool he may have been sacked; as they won he departed on his owns terms.

The only headline he claimed was in the build-up to the game when he modestly admitted that he isn't a tactical genius: the polar opposite of what it says in the “Managers Survival Guide” - give yourself a nickname, claim to reinvent the game, celebrate goals by sliding on your knees down the touchline.

Don't be fooled by the unpretentious exterior; far more of Real Madrid's success was down to him than any other individual.

Tactically he got it spot-on. He chose to keep Gareth Bale on the bench. It's true that the Welshman changed the game when he came on but for the first twenty minutes when the predicted Liverpool blitz needed quelling, Zidane required all hands to the pump. He could only carry one player, and that man is Ronaldo.

He unleashed Bale at just the right time and - boom! - it worked explosively.

When you rely on TV cameras to be your eyes you don't always get the full appreciation. Inside the Kiev stadium it was the first time I'd been able to study the Frenchman's mannerisms. He never moved from the coaching zone and was constantly reminding his players of their roles, a little like an Under 8s' coach on a school pitch.

Now the race is run. He's exhausted and surprised everyone by calling an impromptu press conference to announce his departure. In two and half seasons he'd won every major possible for a club manager. On average it was a trophy every 98 days.

He achieved this without signing a Galáctico. Zidane WAS the Galáctico manager Florentino Pérez always desired. In many ways he is more irreplaceable than Ronaldo or Bale.

Please do not underestimate what Zidane has achieved. They nickname the Bernabéu “The White House” and you know what happens if they allow an egocentric to run a place like that.