When Carlo Ancelotti was appointed Real Madrid head coach at the end of June, Real placed Madridista legend Zinedine Zidane as his assistant coach ensuing an A-list lineup at the Bernabeu.
However, as reported by Sky Sports Ancelotti did ensure that his own tried and tested Lieutenant from adventures together in London and Paris would sit alongside him on the Bernabeu bench—Paul Clement.
“Zizou was a fantastic player, everybody knows him, now he has decided to be a coach. I am very happy to work at his side. He will be a very good assistant, along with my usual assistant Paul Clement."
Six years have passed since an Englishman graced the Bernabeu, when David Beckham left Los Blancos in search for pastures new—across the Atlantic. From one Englishman who is never out of the spotlight to one who is seldom in it, Clement is very much an unassuming character in the hedonistic cauldron of world football and his journey from modest beginnings to the lofty highs of the Bernabeu is almost a fictional one.
Clement has football in his genes. His father Dave, was a QPR icon and also represented England whilst his brother, Neil, played for West Bromwich Albion. Paul though never made the grade as a professional player so he decided to venture down the coaching path.
He studied a degree in sports science enabling him to become a PE teacher before moving to Chelsea’s Football in the Community Programme when his brother Neil signed for the Blues in 1996.
Three years later Clement was completing his coaching badges, rubbing shoulders with Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers. When interviewed late last year by The Times, little did Clement know that he would be coaching at the world’s most glamorous club less than 12 months down the line.
Chuffed that he had made it as far as Paris Saint-Germain, he said “I’d never have thought that in 13 years they’d be managing Tottenham and Liverpool, and I’d be coaching PSG. It makes you feel anything is possible.”
When pressed on whether he would like to become a head coach himself, Clement was equally emphatic in his response.
I’m not in a rush to do it, but in the next five years I want to be a manager. Carlo’s said to me that I have to give it a go, which has given me confidence. If he thinks I can do it, then why not?
Why not indeed. Whilst employed by the Stamford Bridge outfit and without a playing background to enhance his reputation, Clement had no alternative but to knuckle down, coaching the 10-12-year-olds. After a spell with Fulham, he returned to Chelsea working his way up from the youth team to the reserves.
Then, like with all success stories, a significant slice of luck. In the midst of Blues owner Roman Abramovich’s incessant chopping, Clement ironically became a beneficiary as he was asked to help Ray Wilkins organise Chelsea for a FA Cup tie in the wake of Phil Scolari’s sacking. He made such a good impression on eventual interim boss Guus Hiddink, that he became part of the backroom staff under the Dutchman and it remained that way under Ancelotti.
From there Clement has never looked back. Titles have been won in two different countries after Ancelotti selected him to pair-up again in Ligue 1. Now he has a strong opportunity for a third title in a third major European football league, plus the coveted 'La Decima’—if Real win their tenth Champions League / European Cup.
In continuously working alongside with such an experienced figure in Ancelotti and regularly being on the same training ground as Zizou, it can only bode well in the long-term for the Premier League and the Three Lions—no pressure then.