It is a huge evening for Real Madrid. With just a week to go in La Liga, Real are level on points with Barcelona at the top, with Zidane’s men having played a game less. Win tonight, and they require just a point against mid-table Malaga on the final day to win their first league title since the 2011/12 season under Jose Mourinho.
With a final against the Italian giants Juventus in the Champions League final on the horizon as well, the club are on course for a hugely impressive double this season and will become the first team since AC Milan in the 90’s to successfully defend their European crown – no mean feat.
However, despite the success Zidane looks as if he is going to bring to the Bernabeu this season, there is still a large amount of football fans across Europe and the world that are not convinced by this current Madrid team and Manager. But why?
Well, there cannot be any doubt that Real have established a reputation for being extremely lucky. Since Zidane took over as manager from Rafa Benitez half way through the 2015/16 season, we have seen Real score several late, late goals to swing a result in their favour. In particular, there have been a few occasions in which Sergio Ramos, the legendary Real Madrid defender, has come to the rescue and scored some vital last gasp goals to help the team out and snatch a late victory or secure a point for the side when they have struggled for most of the game. With the amount of talent that Zidane has at his disposal and with the resources he has available compared to other La Liga teams such as Eibar and Osasuna for example, it should not need a last minute winner from a center half to secure the points.
As well as the luck, the side have not been playing the style of football which Real Madrid are expected to play – attacking, fast, with lots of goals and attractive passing. It has become synonymous with the club and, should a manger go against this, they often incur the wrath of the Bernabeu faithful – it is widely regarded that Jose Mourinho’s reluctance to play attacking, open football was one of the main reasons as to why he left the club in 2013, despite winning trophies. Players such as Kroos, Modric, Isco and Asensio are all more than capable of turning on the style and dictating games when necessary, but we have not seen it enough in the Zidane era. Despite being one of the most decorated and highly rated footballers in the history of the game, we have seen more of an efficient ruthless style of play adopted from him, with there very much appearing to be a “results over style” rule taking priority from the side under his coaching. For someone who was heralded to be what Pep Guardiola was to Barcelona, we have been left wanting to see more from this superstar squad.
Despite his flaws as Real Madrid coach, Zidane has also got many things right in his first ever managerial job at a top club. The way he has rotated his squad this year to ensure they are all fresh and firing right up to the final game of the season is something which he has perfected – for example, Ronaldo is travelling with the squad tonight in his first league away game since mid-march, and they’re still on-track to win the title. To be without a player of Ronaldo’s supreme quality for so many away games and still win them comfortably is a sign of a) A strong squad, not just 11 and b) Zidane’s ability to analyse the squad and plug any holes when they appear with reliable solutions. In this case, Alvaro Morata – tipped for a multi-million pound move away from the club this summer – has been a more than capable deputy for the Portugese superstar.
Zidane will continue to have his doubters in Spain and all across Europe + beyond, but if he continues to win trophies at the current speed he is, the number of people questioning his ways of working will decrease, dramatically.