Zidane has sights firmly set on Bayern and UCL amid uncertain future

Zidane has sights firmly set on Bayern and UCL amid uncertain future
From ESPN - April 16, 2018

Football management really is a funny old game. Zinedine Zidane has been constantly questioned this season and consensus, not to mention recent history, suggests that his job security boils down to just three matches from April 25 onward.

If the Frenchman falls short in the Champions League, there will be few outside the personal office of Florentino Perez that agree sacking him is the obvious course of action. That was Carlo Ancelotti's fate when he failed to cross the Real president's palm with silver in the 2014-15 campaign, despite delivering the long-obsessed-over Decima just 12 months earlier.

When Leganes pulled off one of the major shocks in Copa del Rey history, Zidane conceded his employment beyond June was in doubt.

Athletic Bilbao did not even make the quarterfinals of the domestic cup, a competition they have won 23 times in their history, second only to Barcelona. Runners-up in 2008-09, 2011-12 and 2014-15, Athletic exited this season at the first hurdle, undone by third-tier Formentera over 180 minutes. The Balearic side had been promoted to Segunda B for the first time in their history just six months earlier.

Yet Cuco Ziganda has rarely faced the same level of criticism levelled at his counterpart on Wednesday, when Athletic visit the Bernabeu. He will though assuredly be seeking new employment in June. Expectations at San Mames are necessarily lower than the Bernabeu, but not significantly so; inspiring cup runs and an annual reservation at one European table or the other were benchmarks set by his predecessors.

This season, only the ineptitude of others has prevented Athletic -- one of three clubs never to have been relegated from Primera -- slipping into the relegation mire. Ziganda had the worst win ratio of any manager in Bilbao's history two months ago at 25 percent and has only slightly improved that to 28 percent since. A 2-3 home loss to relegation strugglers Deportivo La Coruna last weekend was the nadir.

In reality, club president Josu Urrutia was the architect of Ziganda's downfall. The Athletic manager had been a fine servant at San Mames during his playing career and is un hombre del club, which is a status of considerable importance in La Liga and even more so in Bilbao.

But a quick glance at his managerial CV should have been enough for even a casual observer, let alone Athletic's president, to note a crest at Osasuna more than a decade ago and an appointment destined to drown in the wave of Ernesto Valverde's considerable success.


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