Zidane no longer a poor imitation of Pep
Zidane's Champions League feat puts him where he rightly belongs - in football's pantheon
Zinedine Zidane's place on football's pantheon of immortality is no longer open to dispute.
One of the game's greatest-ever players was widely considered to be a poor imitation of Pep Guardiola before a fledgling coaching career that began in earnest only 17 months ago.
No one, however, is deriding the Real Madrid manager in the wake of a historic Champions League final yesterday morning (Singapore time). The comprehensive 4-1 win over Juventus at the National Stadium of Wales further etched the club's name into the record books.
As Los Blancos claimed their record 12th continental crown with back-to-back triumphs, it also confirmed Zidane's new-found, and deserved, status as a bona fide managerial doyen.
Florentino Perez knew that the game would have been up for him, had the former playmaker faltered when he took over from Rafael Benitez the most difficult job in world football.
Real's president could have justifiably allowed his head to rule his heart against a backdrop of growing unrest that had left him firmly in the firing line of fans.
Logic dictated that he would have been better served in appointing a manager with a proven track record at an elite level.
A spell in charge of Castilla, Real's second string, did little to inspire confidence that Zidane would become anything other than another great player simply trading off his reputation.
Precious few have managed to successfully transfer their illustrious on-field careers to the other side of the touchline.
Of the current managerial crop, arguably only five others - Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte, Diego Simeone and Luis Enrique - can lay claim to genuinely tangible success.
In Cardiff, Zidane became the first coach in the Champions League's modern era to retain the trophy.
Only nine others in the entire history of the European Cup have successfully defended their title, two of them also hailing from the Bernabeu.
Not even Guardiola, with whom unflattering comparisons have been made most, could achieve the feat, after they were foiled by a Jose Mourinho-inspired Inter Milan in 2010.
Nowhere in football has been more schizophrenic than the modern Real, which have been cultivated by Perez's "Galactico" philosophy. It is a club which remains consumed by infighting and mere whimsy.
Success offers little in the way of job security, with some of the game's managerial great and good carelessly cut adrift. Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho were just two of the many victims.
Yet, Zidane has made traversing that minefield appear easy in less than a year-and-a-half.
He maintained the peace and harmony of a dressing room of clashing egos as he ended La Liga's five-year hiatus from the Bernabeu trophy cabinet. Wresting back control from Barcelona also saw a plethora of records being set by Spanish football's new invincibles.
An unbroken 40-game streak without defeat in all competitions remains unprecedented for any La Liga club.
Comparisons with the iconic side that boasted Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Paco Gento have also been made after the current squad won 16 league games in a row to surpass the 15-game winning league run set in 1960/61.
Winning the domestic league while simultaneously retaining the Champions League was a feat which appeared to be beyond even the most esteemed of Real's previous managers.
Where Barca had been able to sweep all before them, the original footballing super club have been forced to compromise their ambition of a La Liga and European Cup double since 1958.
Only a truly special coach could again allow them to have it all.
Against all odds, Zidane has taken Real back to that promised land.