If Real Madrid was to be added to the dictionary, the meaning would be something like this: “A football team with a lustrous history established in 1992, based in Madrid, Spain.” However, if that dictionary has to be football explicit, per se, the meanings would be somewhat different.
The definition of Real Madrid is, as spoken by many, to give it all until the end – to never back down from the challenge and success knows no limits. Hence the narrative was established “Hasta El final, Vamos Real” which, when translated, means ‘Until the End, Go Real.’
Speaking of limits and success, Real Madrid – both the club and the fans, is a very different breed, a one of a kind, a forerunner in almost everything in footballing world – records, accolades, stats, best coaches, best players, best stadium, best training facilities, so on and so forth.
But success comes at a certain price. It was the start of the European cup that put Madrid on the globe; at the time when the internet was a scarce entity. Real could sign big players and they ruled Europe for years.
As the story goes on, Real Madrid becomes synonymous with big-money signings (Proyecto Los Galácticos) and sacking managers at will.
The world got the wind of this Real Madrid in late 90’s. Real lifted the UCL (their seventh) in ’98 and then again in ’00 – and again in ’02.
The appointment of Vicente del Bosque was in many ways the best decision taken by Real Madrid in their recent history. His stint started way back in ’94 but was never given the full authority – Benito Floro, Jorge Valdano, Arsenio Iglesias and then John Toshack had their time in the famous white house.
But, as recurring as this statement has become, their stint lacked success. For Real Madrid, winning everything one year and failing to replicate the same form in the next, doesn’t quantify the success.
Del Bosque was modern-day Carlo Ancelotti of Real Madrid, so to speak.
They resemble in many ways; calm, poised, composed, tactically sound, and modest. The Spaniard ushered Real to its finest era in modern history – only Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano’s Madrid have enjoyed more success by then.
Del Bosque lifted two Uefa Champions League in 2000 and 2002, La Liga in 2001 and 2003 and numerous other cups. These numbers are better than most coaches’ entire career, but for Real Madrid merely winning a league doesn’t count as a success.
Del Bosque was sacked and so were the hopes of Madridistas who thought Real might be becoming Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United under him.
47, the hitman number, then becomes the latest to fall under the umbrella of Real Madrid’s notorious synonyms. Four years and seven coaches without a single major trophy.
Revulsions were revved, stars with stellar egos took hold of the dressing room, managers deserted, and fans were all but not sated. In the competition personified by Real Madrid, they failed to make it to the last-eight for years to come. Until Jose Mourinho was appointed.
Though Real didn’t win a Champions League under his reign either, they did make it to the semis in all four years of his tenure.
History has an awkward way of repeating itself. And in 2014, it did when Carlo Ancelotti was named the manager of the club. Real won their long-awaited La Decima with a victory over city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Despite winning a Champions League trophy for the first time in 12 years, the following year Real fell short to Juventus in semis and were knocked out of the competition. And so, ended the Ancelloti era.
Players loved him, liked him, he won over the Bernabeu, many tears were shed reminiscent of when Fernando Redondo was sold, but that is Real Madrid – the perfect definition of ‘No Untouchables.’
The appointment of Rafael Benítez was short lived. He was never an upgrade on Carlo Ancelloti – tactically, mentally or in managing squad’s ego, a factor that has found its true meaning in Real’s dressing room over the years.
After being labeled as defensive-minded coach, and failing to win matches in a steamrolling fashion, he found himself standing at the wrong end of the Valdebebas.
In comes, Zinedine Zidane, the bald Frenchman who knows it all. He was there when Madrid sacked Del Bosque and he was there when they failed to win a major trophy for years.
He was the product of Los Galacticos himself, and after retirement, he has served in the office as Sporting Director.
If there was any guy best suited for the job, it was him. To put the cherry on the cake, his relation with President Florentino Perez is near perfect.
What Zidane did in his first year in charge, was unexpected and anticipated by no one. He surpassed and surprised everyone – pundits, writers, columnists, fans, managers, players, even someone hard-to-please socios.
Mentioning the trophy haul and the records fall under his feet, is a no-brainer here. But, the start to this season was underwhelming.
19 points short of Barcelona – they are closer to the relegation zone than to the top. Only twice there has been a gap this big in the history of the club.
This is the worst start to a league campaign in almost a decade.
Having said that, Zidane is still the right man for the job. He still has the fans, players, and management behind him; all of which are a necessary ingredient to cook something special.
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, the behemoth of a stadium in all its glory, has seen it all. Megastars, massive failures, huge celebrations and tearing nights.
As flawed and frenetic tactics Zidane has, his achievements are a little too much to ignore. One reason for not sacking him immediately could be the lack of availability of less popular figure.
Guti and Solari are not ready – while the former may ever be but the latter has shown no signs to be considered a reliable option.
Joachim Löw and Mauricio Pochettino are both linked but none is ready to take the job right away.
Real Madrid’s squad is in a dire need of shake up. Ageing and underperforming players are pulling the team in the opposite direction – too complacent to perform at the highest order.
The squad needs a refresh and that should be done regardless of its effects; unsettling the nerves of already established stars.
To complete the transition from already established players to world-class youngsters, Real needs someone who understands club inside out and there is no one else better than Zidane for that job.
However, Zidane knows he is walking on the wedge and he needs to find the solution sooner than later.