'Never say never' - Zidane keeps door open for PSG, France roles

By Sports Desk June 23, 2022

Zinedine Zidane has not ruled out taking over as head coach at Paris Saint-Germain or following Didier Deschamps as France's national team coach, amid growing speculation over his future.

Mauricio Pochettino's departure from PSG has not yet been finalised, but reports have linked both Zidane and Nice boss Christophe Galtier to the job, with club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi even confirming talks with the latter.

Stepping down in 2021 as a two-time LaLiga and three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, Zidane would assume either role as a highly-decorated coach, having also enjoyed an exceptional playing career.

In an interview with L'Equipe to mark his 50th birthday, the Marseille native indicated he would not turn down the opportunity to coach the fiercest rivals of the club he supported as a child, citing a lack of realistic options in both personal and logistical senses.

"Never say never," he said. "Especially when you are a coach today, but the question is moot. This is absolutely irrelevant. When I was a player, I had a choice, almost every club.

"As a coach, there are not 50 clubs where I can go. There are two or three possibilities. This is the current reality. As coaches, we have much less choice than players. If I go back to a club, it's to win. I say this with all modesty. That's why I can't go anywhere. For other reasons, too, I might not be able to go everywhere.

"The language, for example. Some conditions make things more difficult. When I'm asked: 'Do you want to go to Manchester?' I understand English but I don't fully master it. I know there are coaches who go to clubs without speaking the language, but I work differently. To win, many elements come into play."

From leading France to the World Cup in 1998 as a player – propelling him to his sole Ballon d'Or award in the process – to his straight red card in the 2006 World Cup final after headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi, Zidane experienced both the highs and lows with Les Bleus.

Punctuating his stellar international career with that sending off in Berlin leaves him with unfinished business at international level, but Zidane insisted his ambition will be with respect to current France boss Deschamps and his preparations for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

"I want to [be head coach of France], of course. I will be, I hope, one day," Zidane said. "When? It's not up to me, but I want to come full circle with the France team. I knew this French team as a player, and it's the most beautiful thing that's ever happened to me.

"But really, this is the pinnacle. And so, as I experienced that and today I am a coach, the France team is firmly rooted in my head.

"When I say that I want to take the France team one day, I assume it. Today, a team is in place, with its goals. But if the opportunity comes next, then I'll be there.

"Again, it's not up to me. My deep desire is there. The France team is the most beautiful thing there is."

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  • Alexander-Arnold offers a reminder of where his qualities lie as Liverpool dispatch Rangers Alexander-Arnold offers a reminder of where his qualities lie as Liverpool dispatch Rangers

    Gary Neville's in-depth analysis of Trent Alexander-Arnold on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football gained plenty of traction.

    It might have been mistaken for criticism, had the former Manchester United defender not put so much onus on making it clear just how highly he rates Liverpool's right-back.

    "No full-back that I've ever seen in this country can do what he can do," said Neville, after animatedly laying out where he believes Alexander-Arnold, who has been questioned amid Liverpool's underwhelming start to the season and was left out of Gareth Southgate's matchday squad for England's Nations League match against Germany last month, can improve.

    "If he can get those consistency elements, we won't just have one of the best attacking right-backs this country has ever produced, we'll have probably the best right-back the world has ever produced, because this is a Cafu," Neville continued. "This is that level of full-back. This is something unbelievably special."

    Special. It's a word used frequently when it comes to youngsters, especially those in England, often propelled to stardom not long after making their first-team debuts, only to be a target of overly harsh criticism if they fail to live up to spectacular heights every time they take to the field. In relation to Alexander-Arnold, however, "special" is a suitable adjective, and he showed why in Tuesday's all-British Champions League clash with Rangers.

    Work to do...

    Before the game, the 23-year-old – nurtured under Jurgen Klopp since making his debut in October 2016 – had created 467 chances, provided 60 assists and scored 14 goals in all competitions. The numbers, as Neville said, are "absolutely obscene".

    Of course, it is not Alexander-Arnold's attacking that has ever been cast into doubt, but his work going the other way. Indeed, with Southgate a more conservative and, arguably, pragmatic, manager than Klopp, it is perhaps no real surprise why many see Alexander-Arnold's defending as the factor holding him back on the international stage.

    Alexander-Arnold hardly helped his cause when the Premier League returned following the international break. He was arguably at least partly at fault for two of Leandro Trossard's three goals in Liverpool's 3-3 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

    It is hard to argue a case, too, for his defending when stacked up against his competitors (primarily Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James) for a place in England's side. 

    He had been dribbled past on 218 occasions in his 236 Liverpool games before the Rangers fixture, a figure way clear of Trippier's 157, for example. 

    Prior to Tuesday's game, Alexander-Arnold's duel success rate (47.3) failed to match the other three, who vary between 56.4 (James) and 58.8 (Trippier). He does boast a better tackle success percentage of 60.6, though it only ranks third out of the four (above Trippier).

    But Alexander-Arnold, it must be remembered, has played a pivotal role in a side that has won every trophy available to them over the course of Klopp's tenure, as well as reaching two Champions League finals they lost.

    Liverpool did not get where they are by leaking goals, and Alexander-Arnold has helped the Reds to 80 clean sheets (following Tuesday's match), a figure bettered only by Walker (91) since the youngster made his senior debut.

    Unique selling point...

    Perhaps, though, there is simply too much scrutiny on the defensive side of his game after all? Perhaps, despite Neville's warning of a "juncture" in Alexander-Arnold's career, it is time to simply enjoy the player he is, not what he should be or could be, especially when he is so far from what would be considered peak age.

    It was Alexander-Arnold who, after an early barrage from the hosts at Anfield following a raucous welcome for two of Britain's biggest clubs, delivered a moment of quality few other players – never mind defenders, albeit Trippier is no stranger to a fine free-kick – are capable of on such a reliable basis.

    When he stepped up to take a free-kick, just under 25 yards out from Rangers' goal, in the seventh minute, there was an air of expectation. Seconds later, the ball was nestling right in the left-hand corner, giving Allan McGregor – who went on to keep the scoreline respectable for the visitors – no chance. 

    Curling in a sublime strike, his sixth direct free-kick goal for Liverpool, more than any other player in the Reds squad since the start of the 2016-17 season, might not answer questions about his defending, but was a timely reminder of the talent at Alexander-Arnold's disposal. It was his second Champions League goal, his first at Anfield in almost five years.

    He was a menace throughout a first half Liverpool dominated with ease, teeing up a chance for Virgil van Dijk to head in a second with a sumptuous inswinging corner in the 28th minute and keeping fellow Liverpool academy graduate Ryan Kent quiet.

    One loose pass into midfield did see him exposed just after the half-hour, though Rangers never looked likely to punish the mistake.

    Seven minutes into the second half, Alexander-Arnold was on hand to recover a loose ball and feed Jordan Henderson, whose raking pass found Luis Diaz. The Colombian was bundled over in the box and Mohamed Salah made no mistake from the penalty spot. Game over, with Alexander-Arnold having played his part in both goals.

    Liverpool could have made it more comfortable, Darwin Nunez particularly unfortunate, but bar a late run from Junior Fashion Sakala, Alexander-Arnold was not tested.

    Alexander-Arnold finished with the most touches (96), a game-high 40 passes in the opposition half and joint-most tackles (four). A stoppage-time booking before he made way to a standing ovation from the Liverpool faithful was the only blemish on an otherwise spotless copybook.

    He might not be perfect, and will face harder opponents than Rangers, especially when Liverpool visit the Etihad Stadium later this month, but is exceptional at what he excels at.

    That, surely, is enough for now.

  • Eintracht Frankfurt 0-0 Tottenham: Wasteful Spurs held in Germany Eintracht Frankfurt 0-0 Tottenham: Wasteful Spurs held in Germany

    Tottenham missed the chance to move top of Group D in the Champions League after being held to a goalless draw by Eintracht Frankfurt.

    It proved to be a wasteful day for Antonio Conte's side, who registered just two shots on target from 11 attempts in Germany.

    Harry Kane and Heung-min Son went closest for Spurs, but they have now failed to find the net in successive Champions League group games for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

    Both sides remain on four points after three matches, and two behind Group D leaders Sporting CP following the Portuguese giants' 4-1 thrashing by Marseille.

    Emerson Royal fired a volley over after six minutes, while Kane was whiskers away from applying the finishing touch to a wonderful move as he narrowly avoided connecting with Son's inviting cross.

    Kane whipped a fierce 20-yard strike narrowly wide in the 28th minute. The England captain then turned provider with a neat flick that released Son, whose curling shot was also off target, before Ivan Perisic's deflected effort spun inches wide.

    Frankfurt almost took the lead in spectacular fashion five minutes after the restart; Ansgar Knauff springing the offside trap before his acrobatic effort was blocked by Hugo Lloris.

    Evan Ndicka produced a magnificent last-ditch intervention to deny Kane at the other end, while Son whipped an 18-yard strike wide.

    Jesper Lindstrom fired a glorious opportunity to snatch the win over after Spurs were caught in possession on the edge of their penalty area, as the spoils were shared at Deutsche Bank Park.

  • 'Another step in the right direction' – Nagelsmann pleased with Bayern response 'Another step in the right direction' – Nagelsmann pleased with Bayern response

    Julian Nagelsmann feels Bayern Munich's resounding 5-0 win over Viktoria Plzen was "another step in the right direction" for his side ahead of facing Borussia Dortmund.

    Bayern followed up Friday's 4-0 Bundesliga thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen with an even more emphatic victory in Tuesday's Champions League tie with Czech champions Plzen.

    It marks the first time the Bavarians have won back-to-back matches in all competitions since August, having gone four league games without a win prior to the international break.

    Nagelsmann is pleased with what he saw from his side against Plzen, with Bayern returning to form at just the right time ahead of Saturday's Klassiker showdown with fierce rivals Dortmund.

    "The boys did well today," Nagelsmann told DAZN. "That's how you have to approach a game. We decided it quickly then controlled it. 

    "With a view to Saturday, that was important, serious and well deserved. It was another game that shows we are taking steps in the right direction."

     

    The hosts were three goals up inside 21 minutes, with Serge Gnabry and Sadio Mane netting after Leroy Sane had opened the scoring at the Allianz Arena.

    Sane doubled his tally early in the second half before substitute Eric Choupo-Moting rounded off the scoring for the leaders in a one-sided Group C contest.

    It is the 26th time Bayern have scored five or more goals in a Champions League match, which is five more than next-best Barcelona.

    Mane wasted some promising chances to add to the scoring, netting from just one of his six attempts, but the forward was happy with his side's performance.

    "The team played a great game, with a lot of chances created," he said. "We deserved to win. 

    "The past few weeks have been tough. It was important we reacted. We reacted well after the international break. Hopefully we can continue like this until the end of the season.

    "We have nine points from three Champions League games and a good goal difference. We are in a good place. 

    "We were disciplined today. We were well prepared for the opponent and that's where most of the goals came from."

    Bayern have now gone 31 games without defeat in the group stage of the Champions League, overtaking the record of 30 set by Real Madrid in 2017.

    "We rightly received criticism during the international break," said Leon Goretzka, who set up two of the goals against Plzen.

    "We used the time well and focused on our game again. Our aim is to perform on a regular basis. We're still extremely upset about the games before that."

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