Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui, taking a page out of Zinadine Zidane’s coaching manual, has managed to lead his team to six hours of scoreless football over the past several La Liga and UEFA Champions League games.
In fairness to Lopetegui, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal, and Isco have all been injured. But there would seem to be plenty of talent to use as substitutes. Yet, the team is faltering at an ever-increasing tempo, losing to opponents they would normally defeat at home and abroad.
Relying on a perennially ineffective Karim Benzema, the only Madrid player to have started every game (sound familiar?), asking too much of the often-injured Gareth Bale, not knowing when to deploy Asensio and Vinicius, and clearly unable to bring cohesion to a team loaded with talent, Lopetegui seems so out of his depth one wonders how the similarly hapless Zidane managed to succeed with much the same amount of experience at the same stage in their top flight coaching careers.
Then one realizes that over in Turin, Italy, in the Seria A, Juventus is off to an unbeaten eight-game start to their season and the man responsible for nearly half their goals (via assists, direct goals, or having the rebounds off his shots slotted in) was once Madrid’s offensive constant for a decade—the top scorer on the team, the five-time best player in the world, the all-time top scorer in the UEFA Champions League, the guy who averaged over a goal a game (311) for the 292 La Liga games he played over ten years at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Could it have been that during Zidane’s tenure it was the Portuguese superstar who managed to erase the coach’s mistakes, time and again? Could it be that with just a few goals, say the four Ronaldo has already scored for Juve this season, Real would be first on the La Liga table and in the UEFA Champions League Group G, thus making Lopetegui look good?
Well, yes, it just so happens four well placed goals would do it. Let’s count, add one goal to thei 0-1 loss to CSKA Moscow, and another to their 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid, and the last two to their 0-1 loss today to Alaves, and Real Madrid would be in first place both at home and abroad.
Oh, well, Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, knew his team did not need Cristiano Ronaldo any more, what they needed was to sign Lopetegui at the expense of his job at the helm of the Spanish National Team and the morale of Spain’s players, just 48 hours before the World Cup kicked off, right?