It’s the middle of the 2018/19 season and Zinedine Zidane has just returned from his extended holiday and dived straight back into the fires of being a Real Madrid manager.
The two people who were supposed to take over from the Frenchman at the end of 2017/18 have failed quite miserably and spectacularly, forcing Los Blancos to go through three managers in less than a season’s worth.
Even for their standards, that was some pretty swift justice imposed by the Galacticos’ board, and that’s taking into account the fact Real Madrid had nine different coaches in the last nine years. That means they roughly change their manager every season or so. Quite an achievement, that one.
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But Zidane was supposed to be different. And sure, he won three Champions League titles in a row, by all means, a historic accomplishment that guaranteed him the position for practically as long as he wanted it.
And at the end of 2017/18, it seemed like his tenure has reached its expiration date. The farewells were painful but no one could’ve predicted how poor Real Madrid would suddenly become with the Frenchman’s departure.
As a result, they only won one single trophy in the following season, and to add an insult to injury, it was a Club World Cup trophy – respectable but nowhere near the others that were up for grabs throughout the season.
Eliminated by Ajax quite early in the Champions League and put in their place in both the Copa del Rey and La Liga by Barcelona who ran away with the Spanish crown quite comfortably.
Florentino Perez simply had no choice – Zizou had to return and return he did, for better or worse.
Fast forward half a year and one or two crises and Zidane’s side are somewhere between pretty good and actually quite bad.
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Sure, they have been on an upward trajectory in La Liga lately, managing to sit on the throne with both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona staring at their behind and keeping three clean sheets in the last three league games, but then we have the Champions League – a competition that they’re supposed to be crushing and dominating with Zidane at their helm.
But somehow, after two games played, Real Madrid are sitting bottom of the table after suffering a humiliating 3-0 defeat against PSG at Parc des Princes and an uninspiring 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu with Club Brugge.
So to sum up – you never know which Galacticos you’ll get. They could be pretty good but then they could also be pretty lacklustre as a whole, and that’s a big problem for Zidane. If they can’t find consistency, then their chances of success will plummet significantly.
And since their pedigree and reputation do demand victories and trophies, it would be far easier to just say Zidane is no longer the right man for the job and this team should look at a different captain to steady this ship that’s seemingly lost at sea.
But what good would that do?
It’s the devil you know, as they say, and in this case, it couldn’t be more true than that. Zidane knows this team and is still building something behind the scenes, regardless of the hiccups along the way.
Last season, the Galacticos were nowhere near that name and now, even though they’re still miles away, they are getting better with time and some credit simply has to be given to Zidane on this one.
Sacking him now might only disrupt their harmony and the process that they have going on. Changing coaches mid-season doesn’t really sound like a good idea at this moment and the 47-year-old should be given a chance to see this project through.
At the end of the campaign, if results are still underwhelming, Perez will surely find a suitable replacement in no time but for now he should stick with Zidane and support him fully going forward.
This is especially true given how this version of Real Madrid is definitely in transition, seeing how many of their star players are slowly but surely heading towards the sunset of their careers.
Can a fresh manager really handle the situation better than the one who spent years in the same locker room as those players? It’s unlikely, to say the least.
Maybe Zidane is no longer the person to put Los Blancos’ name at the peak of the summit but he will definitely get them as far as they can go with the resources and personnel they have at their disposal.
It remains to be seen, however, if he lives up to that expectation or not.
Perez has showcased a willingness to sack underperforming managers in the past when things haven’t been going Real’s way, and if results in Europe don’t improve rapidly it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Zidane in the firing line.
Only time will tell whether Perez is compelled to make a bold decision on the immensely successful manager’s future.