Zinedine Zidane has returned to the dugout at Real Madrid to try and salvage what he can from what has been a disaster of a season. However, not even the return of Zidane will instantly make all of Real’s problems disappear. One of their big issues has been the performances of some players and, while much of the squad is the same from when Zidane departed in the summer, some of his former charges may not get as much game time as they have under Lopetegui or Solari.
Perhaps the most engaging case is Gareth Bale. The Welshman has won numerous trophies at Madrid and, despite a match-winning performance in last year’s Champins League final, rumours swirled he was on his way out if Zidane stayed. However, with the departure of Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale was expected to step up and become Madrid’s new leader.
Yet, the media has been stirred into a frezy over Marcelo’s claims that Bale doesn’t really speak Spanish nor really integrate himself with his team mates. Newspaper reports have recently suggested that the only person Bale is really close with at Real is his personal kinesiologist.
As for his relationship with Zidane? According to Marca, they haven’t spoken since May.
One of the rare bright spots for Real Madrid this season has been the rise of left back Sergio Reguilon. The 22-year-old has been a consistent defensive performer in his 12 La Liga appearances and has even chipped in with two assists.
Zidane’s return throws up an issue for Reguilon. Despite being more defensively solid than Marcelo, Zidane has always backed the Brazilian. Even with Fabio Coentrao and Theo Hernandez available, Marcelo has more often than not played for Real even when the matches weren’t even of much importance. Will Marcelo be favoured again?
Personally, a young, energetic Reguilon is a far more exciting proposition than the return of Marcelo irrespective of the latter’s experience. How many times did we Marcelo tire before the end of a game? Of course, the Brazilian is still great going forward but questions remain over his consistency and defending.
The former Betis midfielder did not feature very regularly at all under Zidane. Ceballos generally prefers to play on the left of the central midfielders, a position Toni Kroos occupies. Ceballos arrived at Madrid in 2017 on the back of an impressive U21 Euros campaign with Spain alongside now club mate Marco Asesnsio and Atletico’s Saul Niguez. However, it was clear that his arrival was more of a Florentino Perez decision than a Zidane decision.
Ceballos managed just 397 league minutes last season, a paltry 12 games. I never quite understood why especially when Kroos struggled. Averaging a pass completion in the 90% range without really getting involved offensively isn’t enough. Bernd Schuster was right when he compared Kroos to a diesel tractor.
Ceballos claimed publicly that he didn’t feel any regret about the departure of Zidane last year but the world is amazingly small. If things don’t change this summer, he will be another Sergio Canales at Madrid.
I was right to conclude my piece on James Rodriguez when I wrote that it depends on the new coach as to whether the Colombian will play or not. According to La Tribuna, one of the conditions of the return of the French coach was to not bring back James. It’s obvious ZZ wants Isco as his unique playmaker and having James Rodriguez in the team would stunt the progression of the former Malaga playmaker. It’s pretty clear James Rodriguez can already think about a long contract in Munich and upgrading his German.
We remember in January 2018, after a poor winter, Florentino Perez wanted to sign Kepa Arrizabalaga. Despite his clear intention to come to Real Madrid and the desire of Madrid’s board, Zidane imposed his veto; he claimed that he didn’t have a keeper problem in his squad. At this moment Keylor Navas was the number one and Kiko Casilla was the backup.
The second option was Thibaut Courtois. Zidane also imposed his veto. Will we see the return of the Costa Rican between the sticks? That might not necessarily be a bad thing as Courtois has struggled at times this season, with this being his worst season in senior football by far.
The season is already over for Real Madrid with 11 games left. Zidane has two months to reinvigorate this team and secure Champions League football for next season. We’ll be certainly curious to watch his first game vs Celta Vigo at Santiago Bernabeu and the first tactical changes.