I couldn’t say “no” to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, revealed Zinedine Zidane in his first press conference after he was re-appointed as the manager of the club less than a year after he left the Spanish giants in the wake of one of its great European successes.
The 46-year-old Frenchman led Real to three consecutive Champions League trophies during his first spell in charge at the Bernabeu, but then stepped down in May 2018. Zidane replaces former teammate Santiago Solari, who was promoted to the role of Real coach after Julen Lopetegui was dismissed following a poor run of form in October.
“Real Madrid appreciates the work done by Santiago Solari and the commitment and loyalty he has always shown to this house. The Board of Directors has also agreed the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as the new coach of Real Madrid with immediate incorporation for the remainder of the season and the next three, until June 30, 2022.”– An Official spokesperson of the Real Madrid Football Club
Zidane has been a club legend much before his first managerial stint, thanks to an illustrious five-year-period as a player at the club between 2001 and 2006. He took over as the manager in January 2016 and made a near immediate impact leading Real Madrid to Champions league glory in 2016-17. Two more European titles followed before he abruptly left in May 2018, a matter of days after securing the hat-trick of Champions League titles as Real defeated Liverpool in Kiev.
The Cycle Of Regression- Julen’s Stint
It has not been a season of immaculate performances from the Madrid side and not one that the fans have been accustomed to. And that is exemplary glory in the World’s most competitive and coveted title of the Champions League.
Real Madrid won three Champions League or European Cups in succession in Zidane’s first stint as a manager. A feat that no team had achieved since Bayern Munich between 1973 and 1975. However prestigious the successive victories were, Zidane justified his departure by explaining that the team needed “a change after three years, another voice, another method of working”.
After Zinedine Zidane’s departure, Julen Lopetegui had been called on to take over the reins of a side which had largely been successful in its tryst with the Champions League, not with the domestic League or the Copa Del Rey.
Real Madrid sacked Julen Lopetegui as manager after four and a half months in charge at the Bernabeu after the crushing 5-1 El Clasico defeat by Barcelona which was their fifth loss in six games. Real, Champions League winners for the past three years, stood ninth in La Liga after their worst start since 2001-02.
The Cycle Of Desperation – Solari’s Stint
The 52-year-old Spaniard was “provisionally replaced” by ex-player Santiago Solari, coach of B team Castilla and had been confirmed as the club’s permanent manager until June 2021 after he led Real to four wins in four games – the best start of any manager in the club’s history.
Real had to give Solari – or someone else – the job as Spanish rules prevent an interim coach from staying in charge for longer than two weeks.
Solari’s dream start had although come to teams which had been inconsistent in their performances and lured a winning spell from the manager. In his spell in charge, his matches had been against Melilla in the Copa del Rey, Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League, and Real Valladolid and Celta Vigo in La Liga. The club, who confirmed Solari’s appointment in a brief statement on their website, were ninth when he assumed control and they were now sixth, four points adrift of leaders Barcelona.
It did not take long for the cracks to reappear. Solari’s first game as full-time head coach saw Madrid lose to Eibar for the first time, the Basque club running out 3-0 winner at Ipurua. Another bad result came a few weeks later in the Champions League, as it was beaten 3-0 at home by CSKA Moscow. Luckily for Madrid, however, it had already secured top spot and the last-16 draw gave it a seemingly straightforward tie with Ajax.
Solari can at least depart Madrid knowing he did win a trophy, regardless of how much importance is placed on the Club World Cup within Europe. A 4-1 win over Al Ain – which qualified as the host – in the final saw it win the title for a third year in a row.
If there is any genuine legacy Solari leaves, it is that he was the first coach to really trust the prodigious Vinicius. The Brazilian only made a handful of substitute appearances in La Liga, but he got his first top-flight start on January 6 under Solari. Although the game ended in a 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad, Vinicius started to feature regularly as he sparked from time time until he sustained a torn ligament in his calf in March.
The beginning of the end of Santi’s stint began when Madrid’s best chance of a trophy vanished with a 3-0 defeat at home to Barca in the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg. Solari’s men struggled to threaten the opposing goal, while Ernesto Valverde’s men played it cool and ultimately picked them off. Barca essentially ended its La Liga chances as well. Ivan Rakitic’s clever chip proved decisive as Solari’s side again struggled to break Valverde’s men down. It extended Madrid’s win-less run in Clasicos to six matches and left them 12 points adrift of them.
The final nail in the coffin was Real’s humiliating defeat to the young Ajax squad. With a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Amsterdam, Madrid was confident of going through Ajax. Shockingly, what it got was demolition. Two early goals had Ajax in control and heading into the last eight, before the excellent Dusan Tadic made it 3-0. Marco Asensio pulled one back for the Blancos, but Lasse Schone wrapped up the game with a last goal. Madrid’s European domination lay in ruins.
A Full Circle-Zidane’s Comeback Strikes Hope
Zidane’s return follows Real’s exit from this season’s Champions League at the last-16 stage, where the Spanish side lost to Ajax. Spanish newspaper Marca labeled that defeat as the “failure of the century.”
Zidane alongside himself brings in a fresh sense of play and a historic record in his first outing as a manager. He has successfully dealt with these set of players in the past and this is what gives hope to the club. The club realizes that a familiar face from the past can make wonders happen, Zidane also co relates with the crowd at the Bernabeau due to his stint as a passionate player for the same club.
Zinedine Zidane’s first stint as Real Madrid manager:
🏟 149 games
✅ 104 wins
📈 69.8% win rate
🏆 Averaged a trophy every 16.5 games
He procures an edge over a prepared team. He can use man management and make some small tweaks like choosing the right XI and making on point substitutions. Although, if he is asked to create a team all by himself then his Castilla record and last season’s La Liga record speak for themselves.
He can improve this time as he has been wise to only take up a job where he knows he can make something happen.
Real Madrid had the worst ever start in La Liga, the second biggest El Clasico loss since 1994 (5-1), first home loss in the group stage in nine years and biggest European home defeat ever.
After the unsuccessful reigns of Lopetegui and Solari, Zidane’s relationship with the club has been compare with the relationship between Pep Guardiola and Barcelona.
While Zidane has been a blessing for Real Madrid, it must be acknowledged that the club has failed to succeed in both the League and the Copa Del Rey. After his re-appointment, Madrid fans took over Twitter in large numbers to protest his re-appointment. The main issue of concern for Madrid fans that looms large is that he left the team for a similar reason and now he is back for the same mission he left for someone else.
Although most fans are rejoicing this homecoming of Zinedine Zidane and hailing it is one of the benchmark moves by Perez to reinstate him as the Real Madrid manager, football fans need to understand and realize that there are very few things more toxic than a fan who worships a player or a coach to the degree that they put a halo around them, make them infallible, and find reasoning for all their faults. It stands alright for faults to exist but it is not acceptable to throw objectivity out of the window.
Real Madrid have also lost eight matches for the first time since 2008-09, the season when there Ronaldo wasn’t bought yet.
The Real Madrid squad missed the great man up top this season which clearly had a huge impact on the team. Cristiano Ronaldo was bought by Juventus in July, 2018. The striker has since then been producing goals for the Italian Club at a high rate.
Ramon Calderon, Ex- Club President, Real Madrid said,” Zidane insisted on keeping Cristiano and transferring Bale, but the president did completely the opposite, so he decided to leave.”
On the other hand Bale has been prone to severe chronic injuries which result in him sitting out most of the matches in a season. Since Bale joined Real Madrid he has had a total of sixteen injuries due to which he has missed 323 days and 64 games.
Any time a great player leaves a team, that team faces an identity crisis. Great players, for all of their efforts to help their teams and elevate their teammates, also force their teams to revolve around them. Real Madrid under former coach Zinedine Zidane, who left the club before this season, was built in service of Ronaldo. The team was designed to get him the ball in space and let him run at defenders. If those same tactics were applied to a lesser player, Real Madrid might have faltered. But because Ronaldo is the best at what he does, Real Madrid were able to win three consecutive Champions League titles.
When a highly dependent relationship like that ends, the team has two choices: It can try to replicate that system with someone who isn’t quite as good, or it can do something radical and change the way it plays entirely. Had Zidane stayed on after Ronaldo left, Real Madrid might have pursued the first option. But new manager Julen Lopetegui had opted for the more radical approach. He chose to change Real Madrid into a high-pressing possession team, in the model of the Spain squad he used to manage.
It would make sense to think that Real Madrid will be worse off without Ronaldo. He is, even at 33, still a league above almost anyone else on Earth. Every win this season will seem like a declaration that Real Madrid have moved on from him, and every loss will be an indictment that there’s no life after Ronaldo.
It is highly expected that during the summer in 2019, the club will give Zidance a high budget to bring in some star players to refresh the squad as the club is hoping to get back their X-factor as soon as possible after Ronaldo departed.
Between the sticks: K. Navas will be back at goal post as Zidane’s 1st choice GK.
Defense: After taking charge, Zidane has already made his 1st signing from FC Porto. 21 years old center back, E. Militao, is doing good at Porto (Porto is at UCL quarterfinal) and will also be a very good addition in Madrid defense.
Another promising player, M. De Ligt, from Ajax has also been linked lately. The Dutchman has proven his presence even at Bernabeu for the Dutch side and led his team to the UCL round of 8 by beating Real Madrid.
Midfield: Chelsea’s main man Eden Hazard has expressed his interest in Real Madrid quite a few times and mentioned Zidane as his idol. He is a play maker and scorer, so Zidane will love to add him in his side. Two more French men Paul Pogba and Kante are strongly linked with Real Madrid. If Modric left for Inter Milan to join his national teammate then there is a big chance any of the Frenchmen will join Los Blancos in next transfer window.
Forward: After Ronaldo left Real Madrid, the club is suffering from the low scoring rate. Mariano, Benzema & Bale were not able to deliver the club’s requirement. Vinicius Jr. has potential but lacks finishing capabilities and composure. So, Real Madrid management believes Zidane will be able to lure any of Neymar or Mbappe from Paris and G. Bale might be sacrificed to balance the FFP rule of FIFA.
A Plea to keep believing: From A Fellow Madridista
When Madrid lost 3-0, the club hit rock bottom.
After the departure of Zidane and Cristiano,
The clouds of uncertainty loomed over the Bernabeu.
Lopetegui took charge,
Dethroned with immediate effect,
Who knew how a Madrid side would look with ageing players and without the great man up top.
Came an interim manager,
Brought with him a fresh sense of play.
Consequently came the wins,
And we pinned our hopes to him.
It’d take two wins in a row,
To believe we can row our way to the top,
And befall our arch rivals.
Who knew we’d falter at every step?
The Whites have given years of glory to clink our glasses on,
Now there are devastating losses that shatter us.
Football has been unfair to us,
A plethora of chances but we couldn’t find the net.
Tonight up for showcase were geniuses at work,
Midfield at its passing best, the young guns played phenomenally well, our back line stood firm as a rock, and a lack of finishing cost us the match.
There have been acute rough patches in the past.
This one’s a hard and a lasting one,
But there’s one thing that we’re all evidence to,
That the sharks would bounce back!
Madrid is anything but pinned down,
In the wake of dawn,
We’ll be a better side.
And anyway, what more does it need than two wins in a row to make us believe that the team can clinch the title once more? Let us wait patiently, to emerge stronger and better than ever before.
Image Credits: KXLY, HDW, ManagingMadrid, SkySports, Goal.com, Marca
Source Credits: GiveMeSport, BleacherReport, SportStar, BBCSport, SportsKeeda