By Richard Martin
KIEV (Reuters) – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp called opposite number Zinedine Zidane “a fighter” before the Champions League final against Real Madrid and praised the Frenchman for his supreme record in Europe’s elite competition despite his short coaching career.
Zidane took the leap from coaching Madrid’s reserve team to the top job at the Spanish giants in January 2016 and so far has won nine trophies, including back-to-back Champions League wins.
“Zidane has been a fighter his entire life, when you grow up where he did in Marseille and had the career you have, you need to be,” Klopp told a news conference on Friday.
“He was one of the best five players ever, he was such a good player that it looked like he didn’t need to fight but he did.
“I’ve been at Liverpool longer than he has been a coach and he could win the Champions League three times in a row, that’s never happened before so either he’s lucky or he’s brilliant, I prefer to think he’s brilliant, like he was as a player.”
Madrid have had an enthralling run to the final, squeezing through their quarter-final tie with Juventus 4-3 on aggregate with a last-gasp penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo. They also survived attacking onslaughts in both legs of their semi-final against Bayern Munich.
“I’ve seen his team playing, I think it’s fantastic football, it’s organised when it needs to be, it’s chaos when it needs to be and when you have all those world class players I think that’s a good idea,” Klopp said of Zidane’s Madrid.
The ever-jovial German coach’s news conference was peppered with outbursts of laughter and he smiled at the suggestion that Zidane lacks tactical nous.
“If a lot of people think Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactics – because people think that about me – that would be really funny,” Klopp added.
“Two coaches in the final who know nothing about tactics. What would that say about the game?”
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)