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On Soccer: Zinedine Zidane Has the Wins at Real Madrid. Where Is the Praise?

Perhaps — and here, too, there is some reason — it is because of the great cult of the individual, one individual in particular, that has enveloped this Real Madrid for most of the last decade. No matter who the manager is, this will always be Cristiano Ronaldo’s team: its triumphs are his triumphs, its trophies are his trophies, almost always achieved through his own, divine intervention. Ronaldo always takes center stage; at Real Madrid, the coach is relegated to the supporting cast.

But perhaps there is something else at play, too, a sense that Zidane can be overlooked because he does not fit the criteria we expect from a great 21st century coach.

This is an age of the manager as visionary and philosopher, there not simply to hone the skills, maintain the fitness and direct the energies of elite athletes but to deploy them in the service of some grand idea; not just to make them a team, but to make them a story, to give them a purpose, an identity.

That idea is appealing, of course, because it creates the illusion that someone is in control of the general chaos that defines even the most rarefied level of soccer. For fans and owners invested, emotionally and…

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