With sport a microcosm of life, nothing is a given but the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid promises a match befitting of the final of Europe's premier competition – and much of that is down to the contrasting approaches Jurgen Klopp and Zinedine Zidane take to football.
If it is a truism that teams are reflections of their managers, then it can also be argued managers reflect their own experience within the game. While playing careers do not solely shape managerial outlooks, they have a fair bearing, and the careers of Zidane and Klopp are fairly illustrative of that.
Zidane, a footballer so talented he appeared to operate on a plane beyond his own thought, pirouetted his way to Champions League, European Championship and World Cup glory while Klopp, a winger turned forward turned defender, spent the lion's share of his career staving off relegation from Bundesliga 2.
For Zidane, it was all innate, while Klopp, less talented but a conscious football thinker, thrived in a system devised by his mentor and biggest influence, Wolfgang Frank.
Trainer Wolfgang FRANK/MAINZ
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Frank, an Arrigo Sacchi obsessive, had two tenures, in the late 90s and early 00s, as Mainz 05 boss, and set in motion the carnival club’s rise to Bundesliga mainstay on the back of his belief that tactical acumen married with collectivism could stump not only talent but also wealth imbalances. At a time when German football was in the doldrums, it was revolutionary.
Klopp has, since that revolution, been an avid disciple of the church of coaching that Franks described as sophisticated school ground football.
The prism via which to view Zidane’s doctrine is a little more blurred. Zidane, it can be argued, might be best when coaching on instinct. His mid-game substitutions, often a reaction to wayward team selection, have a transformative effect. Barely the most talkative of characters, the low-key 45-year-old often speaks of his side’s need to suffer to succeed, while previously stating the key to success is to "run, run and run".
His players are quick to offer platitudes but rarely specifics; take for example Cristiano Ronaldo.
"When Zidane came to the team, all the players respected him because of his time as a player. Now everybody respects him for what he has done as a coach as well. He is showing passion for the game," Ronaldo said in 2017.
When Zidane took charge of the team, everything changed. He is a very professional and calm coach. He had exactly what we needed at the time, he changed everything.
Does he have, to coin a (pretty tired) phrase, a defined philosophy? Perhaps his is trust; he trusts his players’ talent. It may sound simplistic but there can be ingenuity in simplicity. Maybe, due to their wealth of talent, all this Madrid side needed telling was to run more and a bit of cajoling. Madrid's players are his kin, certainly talentwise, allowing him privileges not afforded to his predecessors. So, who better to tell the Galaticos to run more than THE Galactico himself?
Real Madrid striker Ronaldo (C) lifts the ball while his teammates and a coach leave the pitch during a team training session in Tokyo, 03 August 2003. Members of Real Madrid arrived here 03 August to play a preseason match 05 August with Japan's profess
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This is not to belittle Zidane. He has overseen near-unparalleled success at Real, and to do so in the super-club era only cements his legacy. In a cycle obsessed with micro coaching, Zidane might be the last bastion of pure man management.
In Klopp, a man fuelled by pure emotion, he faces off against his playing and now coaching antithesis; a man so entrenched in detail. Those details are tailored to exact the maximum from lesser players, and while those of a Liverpool persuasion may not like to hear it, Liverpool, in the era of super clubs, are a side of lesser players, an underdog at Europe's top table.
Klopp's system, whereby players are given specific, measured and achievable goals , has a similar impact on his players as Zidane's, for want of a better phrase, authoritarian cajoling. While Zidane expects his players to trust their instincts, Klopp’s system becomes his charges' instinct. A prime example of a player who hugely benefited from - and then struggled without - Klopp's system is Mario Gotze, he may have won the World Cup a Bayern player, but he appears to have peaked at Dortmund under Klopp.
In their own ways, both managers coax freedom from their teams. A freedom to play with abandon: Klopp’s systemised chaos against Zidane laissez-faire football. It is what makes this final so alluring; two attack-minded sides but from two very different schools of thought pitted against each other at Europe’s top table.