Zinedine Zidane lavished praise on Pep Guardiola after Real Madrid were drawn against the ex-Barcelona coach’s Manchester City side in the Champions League.
Two presumed contenders will square off in a highly-anticipated last-16 tie, with the first leg to be held at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26.
Guardiola welcomed the challenge, saying it would be “special” to share a touchline with Zidane, a man he “dreamed” of playing alongside.
The Frenchman returned the favour ahead of Madrid’s La Liga game against Athletic Bilbao, going so far as to call Guardiola the world’s leading coach.
“Yes [it will be special]. I played against him many times,” Zidane said on Saturday.
“I respected him as a player and I respect him as a coach. I think he is the best in the world and has demonstrated that throughout his career.
“Of course, I really want to face him, to play against him and his side. Not just myself but all of us here.”
Overcoming the Premier League champions would be a huge boost for Madrid in their bid to be crowned Europe’s best for the fifth time in seven years.
Zidane has overseen three Champions League victories, success equalled only by Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley, yet the Los Blancos coach claimed trophies were not what motivated him to prolong a potentially brief foray into coaching.
“I don’t know if my career will last long,” he said. “It will depend on what I feel. I am atypical, because what interests me is the day to day, how I am with the people who work with me. We will see, but I’m sure I won’t be going up to 60 or 70.”
Madrid’s home match against seventh-placed Athletic comes four days after the club’s strong showing in the goalless Clasico draw against Barca.
Federico Valverde impressed in midfield, raising more questions over whether his development would be stifled should rumoured target Paul Pogba arrive from Manchester United.
Zidane said: “I can only talk about my players. They are doing well. Fede is part of the heritage of the club and we are glad he is with us.”