May 24, 2016 / 11:51 AM / a year ago

Soccer-Zidane praises Simeone ahead of Champions League final

MADRID, May 24 (Reuters) - Zinedine Zidane had few equals as a player but heading into his first Champions League final as a coach, he admits that unlike Atletico Madrid counterpart Diego Simeone he still has much to learn.

The former France playmaker, who was promoted from Real's reserve team to replace Rafa Benitez in January, steered the side to a runners-up finish in La Liga and Saturday's final in Milan.

Real have won 21 out of 26 games under Zidane and lost two, scoring 71 goals and giving away 18.

Simeone led Atletico to their second Champions League final in three years.

"He has everything that a coach needs but above all, he knows his team and his players well, which is the most important thing," Zidane told a news conference on Tuesday.

"I have a lot to learn but my enthusiasm to learn is tremendous. This will make me improve. I still have a long journey to be an important coach."

Saturday cannot come soon enough for Zidane, who could become the seventh man to win the European Cup as a player and a coach.

His spectacular volley in the final in Glasgow in 2002 gave Real their ninth European title and they claimed a record 10th crown in 2014.

"I'm excited and happy," the 43-year-old said. "I am looking forward to the final, to take advantage of this opportunity.

"I know how lucky I am to have the chance to be in a final with this club."

Zidane was assistant to Real coach Carlo Ancelotti when Los Blancos beat Atletico 4-1 in extra time in the final two years ago today.

"When it comes to finals, I only know what it feels like as a player and as an assistant," he said. "I will experience it now as coach with calmness, determination and patience."

Zidane played five seasons for Real and knew when he took over in January he knew exactly what was expected of him.

"The pressure is always there," he said. "It's part of the work and I like it. I have been a player and I had pressure but I have more as a coach. Failure would be not to give our all."

Real failed to beat Atletico in La Liga this season, losing 1-0 at home and drawing 1-1 at the Vicente Calderon stadium,

"It's going to be a difficult match," Zidane said. "I don't think holding possession will be good enough. Atletico are a complete team." (Reporting by Adriana Garcia, editing by Ed Osmond)

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