MILAN: Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane swept aside references to his dramatic 2006 World Cup final sending-off and underlined his “belief” his side can beat Atletico Madrid to the Champions League trophy on Saturday.
Former France star Zidane was sensationally sent off in the 2006 final after headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi, an incident many feel led to France’s defeat and the Azzurri’s fourth World Cup victory.
Retired Inter Milan star Materazzi appeared to offer an olive branch by claiming he would support Real in their bid for an 11th title at Milan’s San Siro stadium.
But Zidane was reluctant to accept. The Frenchman completely dodged the question, saying: “I’m happy with the work the team has done so far. We’ve worked so hard to get to this final and we believe in our chances.”
He added: “If he (Materazzi) said what he said, then good. But I’ve got nothing to say. I’m doing my job and I’m pleased with what we’ve done so far.”
Having won the title as a player with Real Madrid (2002) following two runner-up places with Juventus in 1997 and 1998, it is Zidane’s first Champions League final as a coach.
But the Frenchman was given a hint he might find himself in his current position, two years ago when predecessor Carlo Ancelotti wished him well for his imminent coaching future.
Zidane admits to some nerves, but said Ancelotti — the only coach to win the Champions League three times, with AC Milan (twice) and Real — had half-predicted he would find himself in the same position.
“When the match starts, I’ll be a bit tense, but that’s part of the job and I like it,” added Zidane.
“I experienced it as a player, but as a coach it’s completely different. Carlo Ancelotti used to tell me that often. He told me that before the (2014) final in Lisbon that it would be great if I could experience it as a coach, and here I am.”