Montero recalls Zidane’s last Juve-Real final

Uruguayan coach Paolo Montero of Argentina’s Rosario Central poses after a training session in Arroyo Seco, near Rosario, Santa Fe, on May 26, 2017. As a former Juventus defender, Montero is in a unique position to talk about the June 3 Champions League final in Cardiff, set to be a rematch of the final that Juventus lost to Real Madrid 19 years ago. / AFP PHOTO / Marcelo Manera

For Uruguay’s Paolo Montero, Juventus versus Real Madrid means more than just this Saturday’s Champions League final: it recalls a similar night 19 years ago with his then Juve teammate Zinedine Zidane.

Now manager of Argentine side Rosario, Montero, 45, spoke to AFP about that match as the French maestro, 44, leads Real as coach into their first final against the Italian side since that night.

– Revenge –
Saturday’s match is a chance for Juventus to settle the score after Real’s narrow 1-0 victory in Amsterdam in May 1998.

“We both went into the final as favorites… It was a very even match which was decided by a little thing, they scored against us after a deflection,” Montero said.

Predrag Mijatovic tucked away the only goal of the match to win the title for Real Madrid in a frustrating night for Zidane and Montero.

“It is a sad memory since we didn’t manage to win,” Montero said. “But history has shown that Real are made for finals, because they have kept on winning.”

– Juve then and now –
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has admitted 11-time Champions League winners Real are favorites.

But Montero insists that his Italian former team “have a chance of becoming the champions of Europe.”

Juventus are keen to complete a treble after winning the league and cup in Italy for a record third time.

“Juve to me look very strong defensively, and very efficient in that even if they only get a few chances to score, they convert them,” Montero said.

“On top of that I think they are lucky to have Gianluigi Buffon,” he said of Juventus’s 39-year-old goalkeeper.

“There’s a reason he is considered one of the best goalkeepers of all time. For what he has done in the course of his career, he deserves to win.”

– Remembering Zidane –
Montero played alongside a Zidane at the height of his powers: the 1998 match came just months before he won the World Cup with France.

“Zidane is blessed. He is the best teammate I had and one of the most simple and humble people I have ever met… and now he is showing that he is also a great coach,” the Uruguayan said.

“In life and in Juventus I have learned that the best people are the most humble ones — the ones who train the most and share the most. There is no ‘I’, there is just ‘We.’ That is what I learnt when I arrived at Juventus.”

Now they both find themselves coaching — Zidane at one of the most successful clubs in the world, and Montero in the high-pressure top league in football-crazy Argentina.

“There is a lot of pressure but I take it positively. I’m always looking to grow and you develop a thick skin from the way football is here,” he says.

“A manager like Zidane may find it difficult to coach given the player he was himself — because he is one of the 10 best players of all time.”

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