It was a season of trouble and turmoil for Real Madrid and following a disappointing Champions League exit to Ajax, Santiago Solari was sacked from his position as Real Madrid manager. Although Solari had a reasonably successful time with Los Blancos and a win percentage of 68% to match, there was just something missing all season long and it finally culminated in Madrid being unable to retain the UEFA Champions League title for what would have been a record-breaking fourth time. Now, off-the-back of his resignation at the end of last season, arguably Madrid’s greatest ever manager, has returned to the helm at Real Madrid. Here are the winners and losers of Zinedine Zidane’s return.
After three successful seasons under Zidane and a good World Cup campaign, Isco suddenly lost his place in Real’s starting 11. This came as a surprise to many, including Isco himself, who just seemingly could not do anything to get back into the limelight of Madrid’s starting 11. Now under Zidane, Isco looks set to flourish again in his normal ‘number ten’ position as the French manager reverts back to a diamond or 4-2-3-1. The Spanish midfielder’s lack of playing time has contributed to him scoring and assisting 2 goals each this season. But in Zidane’s first game back he ran the show again and showed signs of a very promising end to this season.
Marcelo has been one of the best left-backs in the world for the past decade. But under the management of Solari and Lopetegui, the Brazilian fullback not only lost form but dropped out of the lineup altogether. He’s made fewer appearances this season than any other since injury kept him out in 2012-13. But in Zidane’s first game back, Marcelo returned to the starting lineup and arguably had his best game of the season. If the Brazilian can get back to his best under Zizou, he will continue to be one of the best fullbacks on the planet and a key cog in Real Madrid’s system.
Like Marcelo and Isco, Keylor Navas made a return to Zidane’s starting 11 in the inaugural match of his new reign. New signing Thibuat Courtois has not impressed at Real Madrid this season, to say the least, and it was only a matter of time before Navas was brought back into the fold. The Costa Rican has fared well whenever he’s played this season and has been a bright spot in an otherwise poor season for Real Madrid. Now that Zidane’s leadership has returned, the 32-year old goalkeeper looks likely to hold down a place in Madrid’s starting lineup for the rest of the season.
Thibaut Courtois made his move to Chelsea in order to play for one of the very best clubs in world football. Unfortunately, during his reign as Real’s number 1 keeper, Los Blancos have looked worse than they have in years. The Belgian has been questioned throughout 2018-19 for his performances and Zinedine Zidane looks set to favour Keylor Navas instead.
A shortlisted name for the Golden Boy award in 2018, Vinicius Junior broke into Real Madrid’s starting lineup earlier than expected. The Brazilian became a favourite choice of Santiago Solari, particularly towards the end of the Spaniard’s time in charge, but only scored 2 goals in 15 appearances. Now with Zidane back in charge, Vinicius looks set to make way for Marco Asensio and/or a structural shift that’ll see Isco return to the starting lineup. He’s still only 18 so his time at Real Madrid is certainly not up, but it looks as though he may have to wait a little while longer before getting a another long run of games.
Champions League Opponents Next Season
In three seasons under Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid won three UEFA Champions League titles. A miraculous achievement at the time, this now looks even more impressive given that Los Blancos crashed out at the Round of 16 this year. Next year the fear factor that Zidane brings to Real Madrid will certainly be back and the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and FC Barcelona should all be very afraid. Again, Zidane won three Champions League titles in three years. Can he do it again next season? Only time will tell.
So there it is! Who do you think has either won or lost as a result of Zidane’s return to Real Madrid? Share your thoughts in the comments below. The Mastermind can’t wait to see you next time.