French coach and football legend Zinedine Zidane has steered Real Madrid to a record 34th Spanish league title, an 11th overall trophy win under his leadership.
Fellow Frenchman Karim Benzema scored twice against Villareal for a 2-1 victory on Thursday to extend Madrid’s 10-match perfect winning record following the coronavirus-enforced break, sealing the club’s first league title in three years.
“This is one of the best days in my life professionally,” said Zidane, 48.
“This is a tremendous feeling because what these players have done is incredible. I am lost for words because I am too emotional.”
After taking over as coach from Rafa Benitez at the start of 2016, Zidane led the club to three straight Champions League titles, two European Super Cups, two Spanish Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.
He quit at the end of the 2017-18 season, but was asked to return less than a year later as the team endured a streak of poor results in the Spanish league and the Champions League.
Thursday’s title celebrations were subdued, however, as the triumph came with Real Madrid playing in its training centre because the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is undergoing renovation work.
Fans have not been allowed into games since the pandemic, and the Spanish giants had warned supporters not to gather at the team’s traditional celebration spots in the capital. Most of the early celebrations came from fans honking their car horns across Madrid’s streets.
“It’s another league title, after the confinement and everything else that happened,” said Zidane, whose illustrious career as a player includes winning the Champions League and La Liga with Real Madrid, as well as the World Cup with France. “I wish we could celebrate with the fans, but I’m sure they are very happy at home seeing their team win the league again.”
“The players are the ones who have fought for this. It’s true I’ve played my role but they are the ones who believe in what they are doing.”
Captain Sergio Ramos lifted the trophy at the empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium as confetti went into the air behind him and his teammates. Players later threw Zidane into the air a few times, then they all posed for photos in front of one of the goals.
“It has been a strange season after everything that has happened,” said Ramos, who won his fifth Spanish league title. “After the confinement we knew that we had to win every match to clinch the title. There was no margin for error.”
Barcelona had won the last two league titles and were top of the league when the season resumed last month. But three draws saw them fall behind Real Madrid and Thursday’s defeat to 10-man Osasuna at the Camp Nou Stadium confirmed their demise.
Real Madrid last lifted the league trophy in 2017, a year before the departure of Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.