It’s done…two goals from the amazing CR7 was enough to beat Malaga and render Barcelona’s result against Eibar totally useless. After 5 years of trying, Real Madrid are back on top of Spanish football. Watching Madrid this season has been a treat for me; from that amazing unbeaten run to the scoring run which took even longer. Add the amazing football on show every time and you’ll realize that you got just about the entertainment you paid for…maybe even more.
I remember November 2015, when Benitez got sacked. I’m not gonna lie…I felt bad for him. With his experience of having ALREADY won La Liga with Valencia, coupled with his European pedigree, you would think he was a good match with Madrid. But things didn’t work out so he was gone after a few months. Enter Zinedine Zidane, a man who had ZERO managerial experience at this level. His only coaching experience was as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti while the Italian was at the club and his time with the Castilla (Real’s B team). You would be tempted to say that his appointment was like Guardiola’s at Barcelona but unlike Guardiola, Zidane wasn’t spectacular with the B Team…in fact, he was barely consistent. He looked a sure banker to get fired before January 2016 ran out.
As I’m writing this, I would like to say that I am eating a big pot of my words (I have never been so wrong in my life). But I’m really happy…because what happened after Zidane became Madrid’s manager is exactly what football is supposed to be about; going against the odds, breaking records, shocking critics (giving them pots of their words to eat) and simply being great. Great is what Real Madrid have been this season.
First off, Zidane managed to get everyone on board with his style of management to great effect. I won’t say he changed much tactically but you can see he’s a great man-manager. He’s been a world-class player who’s played with other world-class players at Real Madrid, so he knows how to work with players of a similar status. The way he managed Ronaldo & Co to perform over the last 18 months should had him lots of awards this year.
Secondly, he didn’t decide to break the bank and sign all sorts of players in the summer transfer window. In fact, the biggest piece of business was bringing Morata back. No flashy signings (unlike Barcelona, who signed basically a new team). For Zidane, it was about getting the current crop to play to their best and they did just that. What’s big to note is that the usual combination of Benzema, Bale & Ronaldo (BBC) was not even close to being crucial. You had many games when they didn’t play together and Madrid still played well enough and won. The emergence and importance of the likes of Asensio, Lucas Vasquez, Isco, and even Morata has been a huge factor in Zidane’s reign.
Finally, Zidane has been the boldest Real Madrid manager I have ever seen. He wasn’t afraid to make the hard decisions like dropping the BBC combo (INCLUDING Ronaldo…which is a huge deal). He’s used every squad player regardless of the opposition. Such is his trust in the players, plus he wasn’t scared of leaving talents like James Rodriguez out of the side if he felt they weren’t giving enough. If Perez was looking for his kind of manager, all he needs to look at is the guy who has given him four trophies since November 2015 (with a possible fifth on the way soon). I think he’s found his guy.
After narrowly missing out on La Liga last season, to come back stronger and win it this time is the stuff of champions and Madrid (and Zidane) deserve every single plaudit.