This weekend’s Champions League final may be an all Madrid affair, but a former Sutton teacher will be pulling some of the strings.
Paul Clement did not display his footballing skills on the pitch beyond non-League level with Banstead Athletic, but the former PE teacher has excelled as a coach.
From the age of 23, Clement worked at the Chelsea centre of excellence, obtaining his UEFA A coaching licence in 1999.
Today, via first team coaching roles at Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers and Paris Saint-Germain, 42-year-old Clement is now assistant coach at Real Madrid.
He said: “It has been an incredible journey. Fifteen years ago I would never have thought I was going to work at the Bernabeu for Real Madrid.
“But what it makes me think is that 15 years from now anything is possible. I’m really ambitious.”
His rise to the top is partly due to a collaboration with former Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti, who described Clement as “one of the most dynamic and intelligent coaches I have ever worked with”.
The pair met at Chelsea after the Italian took over the reins from Guus Hiddink in 2007, and when Ancelotti was made head coach in Paris, and then in Madrid, there was one man he wanted at his side.
Clement who also played for Corinthian Casuals, said: “Guus and Carlo have been very successful, and in the past five or six years I’ve had a great apprenticeship working for them.
“But I coach in my way, which has changed over the years. When I was younger I was more English in my ways because a lot of my education was from the English FA and working with other English coaches.
“My own style has developed over time. I was more boisterous when I was younger.
“Maybe that was a little bit of frustration, working with younger players and finding myself as a coach.”
Nowadays, the former Glenthorne High School teacher can list among his students high-profile names including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham – but he is not phased by any of them.
“I’m more assured now, more confident in my own ability and more comfortable in my own -personality about how to work the players,” he said.
“My most uncomfortable period was when I made the step up to first-team level at Chelsea.
“I was always questioning whether I was ready, whether I had the knowledge, but when I went to Paris, having had that experience at Chelsea, I really felt able to work at this level.
“Having worked at Paris and won the title with Zlatan and other really good players, having had a good relationship with them and kept in contact with them, I had more confidence and now, coming here, that has really helped me.”
The Champions League final between Real Madrid and Athletico Madrid kicks-off at 7.45pm on Saturday.