BREAKINGS : Everything Zinedine Zidane said on managerial return as Chelsea pressure mounts on Graham Potter
Just over five months after becoming Chelsea boss, Graham Potter could be set to lose his job in the coming weeks. The Premier League defeat against Southampton on Saturday means the Blues have secured just one victory in 2023 from 10 games in all competitions.
Outcomes from the other nine games have been four draws and five defeats, two of which were to Manchester City. Nonetheless it is a record that is deemed unacceptable at a club like Chelsea, especially following the transfer spend in the last 12 months.
To acquire eight new players in the January transfer window, Chelsea spent £323million with just under a third of that budget being used to sign Enzo Fernandez from Benfica. Big money moves were also sanctioned for Mykhailo Mudryk, Noni Madueke and Benoit Badiashile.
The Chelsea boss had just under 10 days to help gel in all the new signings ahead of their Premier League clash against Fulham. Despite having chances, the game ended goalless and since then Chelsea have drawn against West Ham and lost to Borussia Dortmund and Southampton, without scoring in either game.
That recent run of results has seen calls for Potter to be sacked, and subsequently demands from Chelsea fans over who they’d like to replace Potter. Mauricio Pochettino is currently the favourite with the bookies while returns to Stamford Bridge for Thomas Tuchel and Jose Mourinho have been theorised.
The latest name to rise in the odds is Zinedine Zidane. The former Real Madrid boss won three Champions League’s in his two tenures at the Bernabeu but has been out of the management game after leaving Madrid in May 2021
In the near 700 days Zidane has spent out of the management fold he has discussed what he plans to do next on numerous occasions. In an interview with Telefoot in June 2022, he confirmed his ambitions to resume his managerial career. “Am I still able to contribute things as a coach? Yes, many things, or I think at least some,” he said.
“I want to continue with that career because I still have the desire – it is my passion. I am 50 years old, fulfilled, I’m happy, that’s the most important thing.”
Discussing his spells at Real Madrid, he added: “We worked a lot, we had incredible players, and a team that followed me. I was responsible for many things, but I had a great team that supported me. It just would not have been possible without everyone. I need to surround myself with people that I feel comfortable with. Without them, it could not work.”
In the same month, Zidane ruled himself out of a job in England with Manchester United, prior to the appointment of Erik ten Hag, which Chelsea will likely be aware of as his reason also affects the chances of him taking over at Stamford Bridge.
If I go to a club, it’s to win,” he told L’Equipe. “I say this in all modesty. That’s why I can’t go anywhere. For other reasons, too, I might not be able to go everywhere. Which ones? The language, for example. Certain conditions make things more difficult.
“When people say to me: ‘Do you want to go to Manchester?’ I understand English but I don’t fully master it.
“I know that there are coaches who go to clubs without speaking the language, but I work differently. To win, many elements come into play. It’s a global context. Me, I know what I need to win.”
The 50-year-old was instead rather clear about where he wishes to manage next. “I’m not finished with Les Bleus,” Zidane added. “I want to do it, of course. I will be [France coach], I hope, one day. When? That’s not up to me.
“I want to come full circle with the France national team. I met this French team as a player, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
“It is the peak. So, since I went through that and now I am a coach, the French team is firmly anchored in my head. Succeed [Didier] Deschamps? I don’t know. If it has to be done, it will be done, at that time or not.
“When I say I want to take charge of the French national team one day, I’m assuming. Currently, a team has been created. With their goals, but if the opportunity comes later, I will be there.
“Again, it’s not up to me. My deepest desire is there. The French national team is the most beautiful thing there is.”
Four months later, on the eve of the World Cup, the France international dropped a significant hint regarding his managerial return to RMC Sport. He said: “I will be back soon. Wait, wait a little bit. Soon, soon. I’m not far from coaching again.”
Zidane’s close friend Thierry Henry doubled down on his fellow World Cup winner’s stance about his next position when asked if he would take over at Juventus. Henry told CBS Sports: “I think he is waiting for the national team. So I’m not going to go there. I don’t think he will go there [Juventus]. I think he is waiting for one thing and one thing only and that’s the national team.”