The return to the Real Madrid bench for the French coach has seen a revived opportunity for some of his 'old guard' to get back into the side.
"Things are going to change," Zinedine Zidane said in his first press conference after announcing his return to the Real Madrid bench. And the coach has kept his word: in the starting eleven for his first game of his second spell he has recalled Keylor Navas, Marcelo and Isco. These were three players sentenced to the bench, or even the stands, under Santiago Solari, but three that were important pieces in the conquest of nine of the 13 titles with the Frenchman.
Navas, Marcelo, Isco
By making this bold decision, Zidane has immediately stamped down his authority. Starting with the last line of defence, Thibaut Courtois, signed by Florentino Pérez last summer for 40 million euros, has been the undisputed starting goalkeeper with Solari. He also ended up becoming the first choice of Zidane's initial successor Julen Lopetegui. But Zidane has once again demonstrated his confidence in the Costa Rican. He had already made this very clear to the president when talks were being progressed to impose the signing of Kepa Arrizabalaga to replace Navas. That led to the deal breaking down and Keylor lifting the third consecutive Champions League title. Courtois has failed to fulfil the expectations that were on him when he made his move back to the Spanish capital and we will see if that continues.
The other two players who the new coach has decided to 'reinsert' are Marcelo and Isco. The Brazilian lost his place in the eleven as Solari felt he had lost his physical attributes that made him such a key player to Los Blancos over the last decade. Young Sergio Reguilón took his place and consistently impressed, while the relationship between his now understudy and Solari (which appeared to impact on the squad too) continued to deteriorate. Zizou has made his feelings known about the full-back.
The Málaga midfielder and his manager failed to gel. Solari was underwhelmed with Isco's attitude in the squad, and despite him being a fan favourite, the player featuerd in very few minutes across his reign, ending in the club sanctioning him at the behest of the manager. Zidane on Friday, however, was clear on the subject: "Isco wants to play," he said. The player himself talked about the positivity behind his former mentor's return.
Whether stating his authority, returning to familiarity, or wiping the slate clean, there is certainly a second chance for some of the players that could have been eyeing up possible escape routes in the summer. Whether or not it proves successful, or a long-term strategy, is another matter.