The atmosphere at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu was a jubilant one on Saturday afternoon, as Real Madrid defeated Celta Vigo 2-0. But the good vibes had come not just from the victory, but from the return of Zinedine Zidane in the manager’s dugout. Before his return this week, the club had just gone through what could be considered the worst week in their entire history: out of the Champions League, out of the Copa del Rey, and out of La Liga. Santiago Solari was sacked, and fans all over the world rejoiced as the man that epitomizes Madridismo took to the podium to give the first press conference of his second stint. Zidane reminded everyone how much he loves this club, and it’s easy to see that he must’ve been heartbroken after the poor results this season.
Before a ball was even kicked, his starting XI sent a statement to Madridistas everywhere. Thibaut Courtois was benched, and Keylor Navas was back in between the sticks. Also in starting lineup was Marco Asensio, Marcelo, Gareth Bale, and Isco. These are all players that had been relegated to the bench by Solari, with Isco being isolated from the squad completely. Zidane said after the game that “these are players who didn’t get to play as much. I know them, I count on them, and they showed that today. Players know they need to play here.” In his first game back, he went with the players that helped him achieve the success that he did in his first stint as manager. And rightfully so, the players rewarded his faith in them with a solid performance on the night. Isco scored a goal that Asensio was involved with, and Marcelo assisted the second for Gareth Bale. To him, and many of the fans, these players know what it means to play for Real Madrid and how important it is to fight for the crest on the pitch. But are these the players Zidane will rely on going forward?
When he originally stepped down last May, he had just led the club to a third consecutive Champions League title, something no other club has achieved in the modern game. Despite that, they had finished the league 17 points behind Barcelona and been knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Leganés. The futures of some star players had been in doubt, specifically Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo; the latter which left the club to Juventus shortly after Zidane’s resignation.
Zidane had, seemingly, gone out on top. Something any wise man would do. It could be said that he had noticed the problems with the squad and thought that there was nothing he could do to fix it, at the time. Perhaps he felt he’d done all the motivating he could do, or that it was an aging squad that would needed to be rebuilt. This is why he decided to resign. The problems that Zizou saw last year themselves this season, and have eventually led the club to where it is right now in terms of the competitions they competed in.
With nothing left to play for this season, many thought Florentino Perez would allow Solari to remain as manager until the end of the current campaign before bringing in someone new. However, Zidane has been brought in with ten matches left to play. This left a lot of pundits asking, why now?
Firstly, Zidane foresaw the shortcomings of the team and stepped down. He has now had over half a season to take a break and examine the games closely. He has been able to see some new tactics introduced by Lopetegui and also been able to watch the new young players that have been playing under Solari. He was given the opportunity to identify what was good this season and what was bad, so he has a basis on how to rebuild the team. Winning was important in his first game back, so this is why he went with the players that he had seen do the job for him in the past. However, this might not be the case going forward. An advantage to coming in now is that he will have nine games to work with the current squad, and identify who he sees could be valuable in the future and who he doesn’t. When Zidane first took over, he inherited a squad full of superstars all in their prime that just needed motivation. This time around, most of the stars are getting older so he’ll need to build this team for the future.
Another reason he has returned, as reported by Marca, is that Perez has promised to give him what he wants in terms of transfers. We already know Eden Hazard wants to play for Zizou and Real Madrid, so Zidane coming in now gives them an opportunity to make a formal offer immediately rather than waiting till summer. Other players on the radar include Neymar and Mbappé. When asked which he would choose between the two, Perez laughed and said “why not both?” Mbappé could feel more inclined to join now that he can play under one of his legendary countrymen.
The club has not spent big money on a player since 2014, when they signed James Rodríguez, so the funds are clearly there for a galactico shopping spree this summer. Madridistas everywhere are anticipating a busy summer of transfers as Zizou looks to rebuild the team the way he wants. And it’s clear he wants a team that will not only dominate Europe again, but also domestically in La Liga. When asked what his favorite memory from his first stint as manager was, he replied “winning the league.”
There is no denying the success Zidane had in his first term as manager, however the task of rebuilding a team is much more difficult than the first time he took over. Madridistas around the world have faith that he is the right man to move the club forward into the future. He knows what it means to be a Madridista, so he will do everything in his power to build a team that will make the fans proud.
Socio Amir Pirbazari, Amir’s Corner