Zinedine Zidane not worried about Catalonia security, focused on football
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he has no security concerns around next Sunday's La Liga game at Girona, amid reports that his club have decided against using their usual team bus for the trip to Catalonia given the political climate.
The situation in Spain has become troubled following the push towards independence in Catalonia. Barcelona's game against Las Palmas on Oct. 1 was played behind closed doors following clashes in the city, although their trip to Atletico Madrid two weeks later passed off without any incident.
Given the events, Zidane and his team will reportedly not travel on Sunday from the airport to Girona's Estadi Montilivi in their bus decorated in club emblems -- a precaution also routinely taken for Clasicos at Barca's Camp Nou.
Other managers including Manchester City's Pep Guardiola, an ex-Barcelona player and coach, have commented on the political situation in Spain, but Zidane told a news conference that he preferred to focus solely on the game.
"We are just going to play a game of football," Zidane said. "We are going to have security there, as always. We just think about preparing for the game, not about what can happen outside. Other coaches can talk about whatever they wish to. He [Guardiola] sees the chance to speak. But here [with the media] I just like to talk about football."
Zidane was facing the media ahead of Thursday's Copa del Rey round-of-32 first leg at Fuenlabrada. It was pointed out that as a player he won everything possible except domestic cup competitions, as he never lifted the Coupe de France, Coppa Italia or Copa del Rey when with Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Madrid.
"This is not about something personal for me. The whole team are excited to play in this Copa as we like all competitions," Zidane said. "We will try as always tomorrow to play well and nothing more. We want to win every game, every competition at Real Madrid. [But] I want to win a cup, and why not this year?"
Cristiano Ronaldo is unlikely to feature at Fuenlabrada's specially extended 7,000-seater Estadio Fernando Torres -- named after the striker who hails from the area -- while Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Isco and Karim Benzema should also be excused the short trip to the Spanish capital's suburbs.
Gareth Bale, meanwhile, is slowly stepping up his recovery from injury, but Zidane would not say if the Wales international will be back for next Wednesday's Champions League game at his former club Tottenham.
"Gareth is out on the pitch now, close to training with the team, but I cannot give you a date [for his return]," he said.
Having won The FIFA Best Coach award for 2017 on Monday, the 45-year-old was asked if his managerial career could now match up to his playing career.
"That's a good question," he said. "I was a better player -- as I played for 35 years. I've just been a coach 18 months. So that is the difference. There are other coaches better than me. If I am still in 10 years coaching, and winning, maybe then we talk. But I don't like talking about these things."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan