Zinedine Zidane has a mammoth task at hand redefining and rebuilding a Real Madrid squad that have lost the zest, style and other strong features that once set them apart.
The damage has already been done. A week ago, they were the champions of Europe, the most dominant force on the continent. A week later, here they are, playing the remainder of the season with nothing but pride to play for. They don’t have any title aspirations this season. Humiliated by Ajax in the Champions League, out of title race in La Liga and dumped out of Copa del Rey by arch-rivals Barcelona, things couldn’t get any worse for Real Madrid.
Ever since they beat Liverpool to clinch the Champions League, things haven’t looked positive for Los Blancos. Two of their biggest stars – Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale – had taken the glorious occasion to cast shadows on their future. A few days after their European triumph, Zidane shockingly resigned. After the World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo, too, left the club.
In the meantime, they had appointed Julen Lopetegui as the successor to the departed Frenchman. They were expected to spend big and find replacements for Ronaldo in the summer, which didn’t happen. They looked on to Gareth Bale to fill the boots the Portuguese talisman vacated, which he couldn’t. Four and a half months into his new job, the former Spanish supremo was sacked.
Santiago Solari replaced him. However, time proved he was incapable, at least incapable of doing what they wanted with the squad he inherited. He has been sacked now and a familiar man with a familiar name has finally come in, to change things, to bring back lost glories. Yes, Zidane has returned to a familiar role; coaching Real Madrid.
Prepare for the new season
When Zidane left, the bar had been set so high that it was obvious his successor would fail to emulate the success. Now, he’s here, the bar set so low, can the Frenchman emulate what he did during his first stint?
Reports suggested Zidane had initially rejected the offer to return immediately. Perez, however, managed to convince him. That speaks of the intensity of damage that has affected the club.
In his very first press conference since returning, Zidane made his intentions clear. He said,
“We have to finish well and prepare for the new season.”
The statement was clear. They don’t have anything to aim for this season. 12 points behind league leaders Barcelona, Real Madrid don’t stand a chance when it comes to winning La Liga.
Zidane’s decision to return at this stage is a welcome move. This gives him enough time to monitor the strengths and weaknesses of his squad and then look at improvements. He can also use the time to motivate his players.
Spend big in the summer transfer market
Admit it or not, Real Madrid haven’t made up for the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo yet. When the Portuguese maestro played for them, he was their goal-getter. His insatiable hunger for goals and glories aided them to grander stages. In his absence, players who were meant to flourish struggled to deliver the goods. Zidane must address this issue in the summer transfer window.
Real Madrid have an ageing squad. Most of their key players are either past 30 or nearing 30. They signed a few youngsters in recent transfer windows. However, that doesn’t change the entire scenario. As Ajax exposed in their Champions League tie, there still needs to be more from Madrid.
Zidane must also fix the problems in the dressing room. Reports have it that the club’s two captains, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, were involved in an altercation during training. Zidane, known for his man-management skills, must bring harmony inside the dressing room and amongst the players.
Zidane won Champions League after Champions League with a side that knew how to win matches, that had many leaders on the pitch and one which at times was lucky. The boots of Ronaldo are yet to be filled. Zidane may have come with more power.
Real Madrid will perhaps spend big in the summer transfer window. Nevertheless, Zidane has a mammoth task at hand redefining, rebuilding a side that has forgotten the art of winning matches ugly, a side that has run out of luck. Even if he does, the chances of emulation are extremely low.