Real Madrid have fired rookie coach Santiago Solari and replaced him with two-year wonder Zinedine Zidane, on a comeback from his recent mixed run at the club and a ten-month vacation. The threepeat winner returns.
That club president, Florentino Perez, could not lure a more experienced coach, that he had to concede on most all of the terms Zidane had sought to continue at the helm a year ago, and that the change is being done mid-season, again, tells us that the players are still the last priority for the team’s leadership and team administration.
Unfortunately for Solari, the club believed he would be ineffectual garnering the only thing left for Real to play for, an automatic slot into next year’s UEFA Champions League. Zidane takes over immediately. Ironically, the players will probably play their best football in the remaining 11 rounds of La Liga as they already know what the incoming coach’s proclivities are and thus what their prospects will be next season. Similarly, when they return to domestic play next year, they will do so vastly refreshed, off the longest break they have ever had, given they will not play in either the Copa or Champions League, or the Spanish or UEFA Super Cups, or the FIFA Club World Cup.
Unfortunately for Madrid, Zidane is the wrong choice. He has not yet had the time or opportunity to learn how to coach, having spent most of his short time away on vacation. He is inclined to miss what happens on the pitch and is slow to react to the action with the needed substitutions or strategic tweaks. Though he does know how to mitigate most of the damage of the ego-clashes top teams inevitably suffer he is about to manage a team whose major egos will have left the club by next season. So there goes the single biggest aspect of his managerial skill. Yet, he does know how to keep Perez at arm’s length most of the time. So there is that.
But, Zidane will return with his old cronies as assistants, with his penchant for playing Karim Benzema and his other favorites over whomever is in form or contributing, and he will be easy prey for the more savvy coaches he will meet at home and abroad. If he gets rid of one of his top goalkeepers, he will be opening the way for his bench-warming son to play and one wonders how tempting that will be. Finally, he will have to rebuild the team emotionally while trying to blend together a Bernabeu-stalwart crew with his new summer purchases.
Though one must wish him well in his new stint as coach of Real Madrid, and one never knows what the future might hold, Zidane’s repeat role is so fraught with echoes of past miscues one can only wonder at why the club board pursued his return. This return seems more a desperate band aid approach rather than a well thought-out and reasoned decision. As always at this club, it will ultimately be up to the new and remaining players to save Real Madrid from itself.