'Zizou' set for leading role at the Bernabeu

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

La LigaPA PhotosZidane has remained at Real Madrid in various capacities since retiring in 2006

Florentino Perez and his staff at the Santiago Bernabeu may be busy trying to seal a deal for the club's successor to Jose Mourinho, but the Blancos president is set for talks with another potentially crucial cog in Madrid's near and not-so-near future this week.

Zinedine Zidane is a Madrid legend. One of the best players of his time. One of the best players to ever play the beautiful game. Since his retirement, the Frenchman has returned to the club in an off-the-field capacity, something that was put on the back burner during Mourinho's three-year spell in charge in the Spanish capital. Now Perez is ready to sit down and put his former Galactico firmly back in the picture at the Bernabeu.

-Calderon: Mourinho laughing at Real Madrid

The talk has always been of 'Zizou' returning to the fold with Perez after Mourinho's departure. A potential assistant to Carlo Ancelotti, or whoever comes in as new manager, he may not be, but Perez is desperate to have the former World Cup and European Championships winner in a vital role at the club. A chance for the Galactico to help bring in current and future Galacticos.

Reports in Spain are suggesting those talks over Zidane's role will take place this week, possibly on Wednesday, and they could be key in the direction the club goes next season and beyond. Surely, too, any incoming manager will be made well aware Zidane, who lifted the Champions League trophy during his days as a Madrid player, will be a crucial part of the off-the-field set-up. No back seat, as he took with Mourinho at the helm.

Perez is eager to have a man of Zidane's stature in the world game at the club, and Zidane is happy to be there. With his nationality probably a a big advantage, it's understood that Zizou helped convince Karim Benzema to come to the Bernabeu, and he was also influential in bringing young French defender Raphael Varane to the club, too. Benzema's qualities may have been clear for all to see, but Zidane's help in getting Varane in the famous all-white kit paid dividends last season, with the youngster a bright light in a largely dark season.

It won't just be player identification, scouting and a good reputation Perez hopes Zidane will bring to the table, however. On discussing the club's next boss, Perez said recently: "First we will speak with [Zidane], because although people do not believe it, we have not spoken with anyone yet. We want Zidane to lead this. He connected with Madridismo when he arrived and his only dream is the club. He showed that on the pitch and afterwards with his behaviour."

Not just any old role for the Frenchman, then. A leading one.

It would make sense, therefore, for Zidane to work alongside Ancelotti. Although growing in popularity across the game, plenty of managers dislike interference in their work from sporting directors and the like. Mourinho was not happy with people outside of his own circle getting involved in team and player affairs and, although perhaps not as obviously, plenty of other top managers will be in the same boat.

Ancelotti may sit on either side of the fence, but at least in Zidane he'd be working with a man he knows well in the game. The pair worked together a couple of years at Juventus before both moved on to pastures new. That factor could be key in not only accelerating Zidane's off-the-field involvement, but it could also play a part in why the Italian is the runaway candidate for the job.

It seems the dream pairing for Perez in his bid to get Los Blancos not only back to the top of Spanish football, but to the top of the European game, too. It could be a dream pairing for the future, too, with the president hinting Zidane could be a future manager of the club himself if all goes well.

"We do not know who will be the coach," Perez said. "But we want Zidane to lead the whole sporting project. I did not believe that Zidane wanted to be coach, but in these years he has decided to be one. He is the sporting director and I would like a person such as him, with his status and knowledge, to be coach someday. At the moment, when we choose a coach, he and Zidane will analyse the state of the team to give it a jump in quality. We want to be the best again."

It's usually a dangerous game appointing former heroes of a club as a manager in the place he is, or was, worshipped. If things start to go wrong, that can sometimes have an impact on his status amongst the fans. A fantastic player he may be, but a bad managerial career could tinge that previous success. You only have to look to Barcelona and Pep Guardiola, of course, to see the other side of that coin. Zidane may well need to follow in similar footsteps in coaching Castilla or even lower down the Madrid ladder to prove he's up to the task.

That's the long term, though. In the meantime, Zizou is all set to play a big part in the immediate future of Madrid. The move will be a big plus for Perez amongst the fans, but Zidane has also showed in his previous off-the-field role at the Bernabeu that he's actually up to the task, too. A few more players of the ilk of Varane will do very nicely.

ESPN Conversations