Wednesday 19 September 2018, 07:00

Lippi assesses Deschamps and Zidane

  • Deschamps and Zidane are friends, former team-mates and rivals

  • Marcello Lippi gives the lowdown on his erstwhile charges

  • Similar yet different, the two Frenchmen are both serial winners

Didier Deschamps and Zinedine Zidane have pursued their own separate careers, but their illustrious journeys have taken in many of the same ports of call, from Marseille to Bordeaux and Turin. They are both also genuine legends of the French national team, and their paths are set to cross again in London on Monday at The Best FIFA Football Awards™.

Shared adventure

When Deschamps joined Marseille in 1989, Zidane was a regular spectator at the Stade Velodrome, drawn by the prospect of watching his idol, Enzo Francescoli. Four years younger than Deschamps and a Marseille native, Zizou would soon be making headlines of his own, and he earned his first high-profile move to Bordeaux in 1992, a year after Dédé's single season with the club in 1990/91. Zidane then followed in his compatriot's footsteps once again after Deschamps signed for Juventus in 1994 – except that this time the duo became team-mates. It was the start of a shared adventure, the two players forging a much deeper bond on the pitch than their meetings on France duty would otherwise have allowed.

Zidane and Deschamps together:

  • 1 FIFA World Cup (1998)

  • 1 UEFA EURO (2000)

  • 2 Serie A titles (1996, 1997)

  • 1 UEFA Super Cup (1996)

  • 1 Intercontinental Cup (1996)

  • 1 Italian Super Cup (1997)

  • 1 UEFA Intertoto Cup (1999)

  • 2 UEFA Champions League finals (1997, 1998)

Shadow and light

Despite their individual talent and importance to both Juve and Les Bleus, neither player is likely to have won as much as he did without the other. They complemented each other perfectly, Deschamps' tactical discipline allowing Zidane's technical mastery to flourish, the holding midfielder working diligently in the shadows to help his creative colleague seize the limelight.

"I was never going to be a player as talented as Zinedine Zidane or Alessandro Del Piero," said Deschamps. "Instead, I made up for that by working a huge amount and helping my team in the best way I could."

One way of helping, it turned out, was a swift pass to his fellow Frenchman. "I've found the best tactic for never having any problems on the pitch," Deschamps once told Marcello Lippi, his coach at Juventus. "As soon as I get the ball, I give it to Zidane. After that, I can relax."

Lippi's assessment

Lippi has his own thoughts on the pair, and spoke to the Italian coach about his two former players – who have since become successful managers and finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Coach.

On Deschamps:

  • "Didier was already a coach when he was a player. He was a leader on the pitch, a reference point for all his team-mates and also for me. I often had technical and tactical conversations with him."

  • "He experienced defeat in the final of EURO 2016 before going on to win the 2018 World Cup. People build on difficult moments to achieve success, and defeats can often serve as the basis for your greatest victories."

  • "Didier had a team in which no player stood out from the rest during the tournament. With a set of players on a similar level, he managed to organise his team very well and give them a huge desire to work together in order to win."

On Zidane:

  • "Didier already had the mentality of a coach, but Zizou waited a few years before deciding what he wanted to do with his future. Whatever he opted for, I was sure he would experience success."

  • "Great players don't always manage to become great coaches, but Zizou did just that. Humility goes hand in hand with great intelligence, and Zizou has had that quality all throughout his career."

  • "He's already one of the best coaches around, and I'm sure he'll continue to win things. The only thing he needs now is to be able to understand what it takes to keep winning and to turn that into a habit."

Two methods, one result

Deschamps and Zidane share several qualities that have proved crucial to their success, with Dédé leading France to glory at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and Zizou steering Real Madrid to a third consecutive UEFA Champions League title:

  • A winning mentality and tactical rigour picked up during their time in Italy and inspired, as both men admit, by Marcello Lippi.

  • An incredible aura and charisma thanks to their glorious playing careers, especially their part in France's 1998 World Cup triumph.

In terms of their differences, Deschamps has always looked to cultivate ball possession – but has never hesitated to adapt to the strengths of his players. "We're not going to focus on possession for possession's sake because that doesn't necessarily bring success," he explained shortly before Russia 2018. "We perform better when we attack at pace than when we build moves." A few weeks later, he lifted the World Cup Trophy for the second time in his life.

Zidane, meanwhile, has always sought a combination of physical intensity and possession, the former a consequence of his years under Lippi and the latter learned from Carlo Ancelotti. As he explained after taking the Madrid reins in 2016, "My approach is to try to play football whatever happens, by building from the back, moving the ball forward quickly, playing in the opposition half and keeping possession." That same philosophy soon brought him a first Champions League title as a coach, followed by two more as he completed a hat-trick earlier this year.