During his second year in charge, Zidane asked Madrid to sign Paul Pogba - and with a certain amount of insistence, but Florentino paid little attention to his request. He explained that he was too expensive and not a player that really excited him that much... that doesn’t particularly surprise me because Pogba isn’t the kind of player that Florentino tends to like. Florentino prefers more elegant, refined players, as opposed to highly productive players who might lack charm. Do you remember when he first became president and refused to sign central defenders? who he disregarded as artless pub players who simply hoof the ball aimlessly up-field or out of play. Someone very close to him told me that a few years ago he dreamt of having a team with Beckham at right-back, Zidane as a free-roaming midfielder, Totti in midfield and in attack: Owen, Henry, Ronaldo, Figo...
Team comes second to stadium revamp
And now Zidane’s back to save Florentino’s neck, now that it’s become clear that his obsession to turn the Bernabéu into a giant sardine tin has meant the team has been neglected. If Zidane has accepted to come back and save him from his ordeal, it must be so that he can turn around and say, “Look, I did tell you - but you didn’t listen!” and that he will be the one to have a say in who stays and who leaves. Revamping the team basically involves selling Gareth Bale to the highest bidder, which in turn, would represent some kind of personal defeat for Florentino, who imagined Bale taking over from, and even outdoing Cristiano – a plan which left Madrid out of the running for Mbappé. As I’m sure you all know: Mbappé would have come if Bale had been sold to free up his position and to make things even easier, Mourinho wanted Bale at United, but Florentino decided he’d rather keep him.
How much authority will Zidane have?
Bale is an asset which can bring in profits, he said back then. The first expensive signing that Zidane wants to see happen is Pogba, and he hasn’t tired of saying so. Recently, during the same press conference in which he refused to talk about Mbappé (“because he’s at another club”), he spoke wonders of Pogba - who is also at another club. Zidane is prudent and discreet, a role he only ever veers from when he is unequivocal on something – like when he put his foot down about signing Kepa. And now he is insisting that Madrid sign Pogba, a powerful, box-to-box player who is potent in the air, fast – but without that extra magic that gets Florentino’s pulses racing. Whether Zidane gets his way or not will give us some indication as to whether he has indeed been handed free rein to restructure the team or if Florentino, now that the initial shock is over, has changed his mind.