There’s an age-old adage that you don’t mess with a winning formula and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but Real Madrid must wish they had replenished their back-to-back Champions League winning squad with greater reinforcements last summer.
Under-pressure boss Zinedine Zidane apparently still has license to open Florentino Perez’s cheque book in the January transfer window, however Los Blancos are now fully behind the eight ball, when in truth, it should have been the Whites who were leaving other sides trailing in their wake this season.
As it is, a 19-point a gap between themselves and Barcelona in La Liga is several bridges too far to breach, and with the way Madrid have been defending all too tentatively of late, Paris Saint-Germain will be optimistic about knocking out the reigning European champions in next month’s last-16 clash.
Los Blancos’ summer spending saw the arrivals of Theo Hernandez from city rivals Atletico and the acquisition of highly-promising Dani Ceballos (totalling €47m), as well as terms agreed well in advance for incoming Vinicius Junior.
You have to admire Zinedine Zidane’s ethos of bringing in and developing young talent, with more Spaniards like Barca did previously, but the Whites needed an impact signing or two as well – much like they are desperate for the same now to salvage something from what has been a below-par campaign.
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In the grand scheme of things – for a club of Real’s pedigree – recent spending has just been pocket change especially as the likes of Alvaro Morata, Danilo and James Rodriguez (initially on loan) all departed for hefty fees and were on big salaries.
But the failure to add another striker to the ranks to take some of the burden off Cristiano Ronaldo and put pressure on Karim Benzema to improve his consistency never materialised, while Marco Asensio – who is still the club’s star of the future – has been inconsistent with his goalscoring return.
The fact Lionel Messi’s 17 La Liga goals this season are more than Madrid’s top four domestic goal-getters combined, with Ronaldo, Asensio, Isco and Gareth Bale all netting just four each, shows just how much firepower has been missed. Real Betis, Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad have all scored more than Real, too.
Ronaldo has struggled for goals in La Liga this term.
The likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mauro Icardi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Antoine Griezmann and a long list of other targets were speculated as potential solutions, but now it’s all gone a bit quiet.
Seeing Blaugrana, PSG and the vast bulk of Premier League teams all lavish comprehensive transfer funds must be difficult viewing for fans of arguably the world’s richest club, but let’s not forget bludgeoning cash wasn’t the reason why Madrid won La Liga. Instead, teamwork, togetherness, discipline and all-round contributions were vital – bringing a highly-assembled squad all onto the same wavelength.
Real didn’t need Galacticos style spending back in June, July and August, just some fresh blood and new players who could compete for a starting berth in their best XI along with what they already had. Simply put, it’s what they still require.
Zidane, who was an early part of the famed Galacticos period as a player in the 2000s, saw first-hand that bringing in big name after big name eventually unsettled the balance of the side and led to too many big personalities.
The almost irreplaceable Claude Makelele making way for the arrival of David Beckham, back in 2003, being an all too obvious example of that. Four trophyless years from 2003 to 2007 was evidence you don’t always reap the rewards of having individual stars aplenty.
That said, Barcelona and Madrid have almost swapped roles in terms of ideology of late, with the Catalans spending big on Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho – and Madrid focusing on the natural development of the team through low key signings and showing faith in the future.
Ultimately, though, you would have to say Barca and PSG are the winners currently having displayed greater ambition in the transfer market. Confidence can rocket when you make the right kinds of investments and you could make an argument for saying both clubs have quickly usurped Madrid. Whatever you think, this shouldn’t have happened in January.
Real slumped to a late 1-0 defeat against Villarreal at the weekend.
Real didn’t need to spend big, neither do they now, to get back to the levels they enjoyed last season. Most of the issues could potentially be a quick fix.
Forgetting the market for a second, with a bit more experience in the dugout, could Zidane have avoided some of the tactical and psychological pitfalls of things unravelling this term in the manner they have?
Time is a precious commodity in modern football and Zidane deserves more of it – but performances and results are going to have to change quickly for him – despite backing from the club’s hierarchy. The worrying sign is the World Cup winner’s fluid and effective stamp on his team isn’t working.
Back in November, the Whites were ripped to pieces by Tottenham in the Champions League at Wembley, in which Real lacked intensity and desire as Zidane stood on the touchline, next to the man many tip to be his would-be successor, Mauricio Pochettino. They were also inept, particularly in the second-half, when the wheels came off in the Christmas Clasico loss to Barca.
Has Zidane lost the command he previously enjoyed over his players? No, not completely, but things could be better.
Naturally, a let down in form as well as motivation can happen after an unprecedented trophy-laden spell but, at Real Madrid, nothing but winning is accepted.
Indeed, players who he previously could rely on week in, week out, are struggling – the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo – all adding to a list of ‘not at their best at the moment’.
However, these stars have not become bad players overnight and just a few months ago we were all eulogising about this side after they beat Juventus convincingly in Cardiff. The bulk of the squad, bar Ronaldo in particular, are at or at least close to the peak of their respective careers. From that perspective, there is no need for a major overhaul in personnel.
The new signings, too, need time to settle in and young talent like Marcos Llorente will surely get a chance to shine.
Zidane has to find a way of rediscovering that spark and confidence again, and perhaps, shunning a poor-performing big player, or two, could lay down the law for those that have become too comfortable with the club legend in charge.
People have labelled Zidane’s first 18 months or so at the helm as beginner’s luck and it would be a disservice to say that the 45-year-old’s approach was all down to good fortune. You don’t achieve what Zizou has achieved in the game without attention to detail and a thorough understanding of Real Madrid.
But, he has to tweak the previously winning formula if he is to stay in a job long-term and Real are to avert this crisis. Indeed, the Whites are closer to the relegation zone, in terms of points, than they are to Barcelona at the top. It doesn’t make for great reading.
Los Blancos don’t require major surgery but need to go for several check-ups quickly.
Source : http://sport360.com/article/football/real-madrid/262512/reverting-back-to-galacticos-era-of-spending-is-not-the-answer-but-real-madrid-boss-zinedine-zidane-needs-to-alter-philosophy1587