The soccer news starts with Real Madrid already out of the Champions League, the Coppa del Rey, and 12 points and two spots behind La Liga leaders Barcelona. So why not act now and bring back three-time Champions League winning coach Zinedine Zidane?
After Zidane quit over the summer, Real Madrid went through two coaches. Julen Lopetegui made it only through the end of October. He lost the Spain job right before the World Cup when it went public that he was Zidane’s replacement. Santiago Solari replaced him, losing the job after the Champions League exit to Ajax.
Now, it’s Zidane the unlikely returnee in a scenario where the best he can do is get past Atletico Madrid five points ahead of them in 2nd-place. Solari was already in trouble after Barcelona knocked them out of the Copa del Rey 3-0 on February 27 and then beat them 1-0 in the league. Both of those losses happening at home certainly didn’t help. Losing to Ajax 3-1 at home a few days later meant a coaching change. This is Real Madrid after all.
Reenter Zidane, linked strongly with a move to Juventus and now back at Real Madrid. In a press conference on Monday, Zidane stressed his commitment to what the club is now.
“It’s a big challenge and I’m not thinking about the past because if I had done, I wouldn’t have come back,” he said. “It’s about more than returning to Real Madrid. I’m really raring to head up this second project and serve the president, the club and the fans. I’m really raring to return and nobody can take my excitement to coach this team and ensure that they perform better away from me. I’m back in charge of the project with renewed energy after nine months out.”
Real Madrid as a project is interesting considering their place in the contemporary game. It wasn’t lost on anybody that this was a three-peat Champions League winner that lost two La Liga titles over that period. Real Madrid wasn’t overwhelming in all competitions, losing La Liga titles and Copa del Reys to Barcelona. Nobody is going to argue that the Champions League counts more, but the domestic league and cup still matter. So does creating something that can outlast a manager or a star player.
In the post-Cristiano Ronaldo error, Real Madrid isn’t itself. That’s certainly evident from the fan response this season. This is a club that can’t count home field as the advantage all of a sudden, and its leadership made one of a handful of potential changes to address that.
“We’ve got a great squad,” Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said. “But following these years of triumphs, we have to admit that we haven’t reached the standards that we expected to as a group this season. We want to begin to work on writing a new, exciting chapter. A chapter in which we’ll be led by one of our big icons as we look to rediscover the excitement, ambition and the utmost competitiveness seen throughout all of these years.”
The Guardian’s Sid Lowe on how Zidane’s return changes the power structure at Real Madrid. SI.com’s Jonathan Wilson looks at what Real Madrid needs from Zidane this time. Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre with Real Madrid in the same situation as any struggling club, in need of wins.
AP’s Rob Harristhe potential for World Cup expansion in 2022. Pro Soccer USA’s Chris Fuhrmeister asks about Atlanta United as a struggling club. The Bolton News’ Marc Iles reports on the club not paying players on time.
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Logo courtesy of Real Madrid