Zinedine Zidane explained what he asked from his players after Gareth Bale helped him to a 5-0 win in his first game as Real Madrid manager.
Bale scored a hat-trick and Karim Benzema grabbed a double as Real thrashed Deportivo at the Bernabeu in the first match since former Zidane replaced Rafael Benitez in the dugout.
Although Real recorded four huge wins under Benitez, beating Real Betis 5-0, Espanyol 6-0, Malmo 8-0 and Rayo Vallecano 10-2, there was a different feeling about this performance against an improved Deportivo side, who have taken points off Madrid’s title challengers Atletico Madrid and Barcelona this season.
“Nothing has changed among the players, what’s changed is the coach, and I’m going to try and make them play in the best way possible,” Zidane told a press conference afterwards.
“What I liked the most was the attitude. It’s not easy to win 5-0 and I was impressed with the attitude of those who played and those who didn’t.”
Zidane refrained from dousing hat-trick hero Bale with special praise, however.
The Frenchman added: “Gareth just has to do what I’ve asked everyone else to do, which is to defend without the ball and open the pitch up and play when we have it.”
And he defended Cristiano Ronaldo, who failed to score despite taking nine shots at goal.
“Cristiano played really well,” said Zidane. “He always feels he has to score because that’s what he likes to do, but I thought he played well. I’m sure he’ll score in other games.”
There was an ecstatic mood in the stadium for the return of the player who won Real their ninth European Cup in 2002, and Zidane was grateful for the reception he received.
“It pleased me a lot and you could feel it,” he said.
“The fans were always behind the team. There was a good atmosphere and we have to continue and think about our next game. Our plan is to play good football and win games.
“It’s been almost 10 years since I retired and I’m happy with how it went. This is a new challenge for me, and I want to enjoy it. I thank all the fans for coming but the fans come to see the players and the win was their reward.”
Home goalkeeper Keylor Navas meanwhile struggled to explain what had changed in the team since Zidane’s arrival, but said the World Cup winner had given the players renewed belief.
“Football is like that sometimes and we have to think about the present and keep winning games,” Navas told Spanish television network Movistar.
“I hope we can continue like this. Zidane gave us confidence, as a coach should when he speaks to his players. You always have to have confidence if you want to do well, and I think we’re progressing.”