Real Madrid quartet feel effect of Solari exit, Zidane return
Some of the players pressed into action by Santiago Solari have, to varying degrees, seen their importance wane under Zinedine Zidane.
Before crashing and burning catastrophically, Santiago Solari's brief tenure as Real Madrid coach had served to banish the question marks hanging over certain members of the squad - question marks which, since Zinedine Zidane's return as Bernabéu boss, have now reasserted themselves.
Under the Argentine, Vinicius began to carve out the kind of role he had been denied by Julen Lopetegui; Sergio Reguilón made giant strides at left-back, even displacing first-choice Marcelo; a level of faith was shown in Dani Ceballos that saw the midfielder start to make his mark at the club; and Marcos Llorente's rise up the pecking order brought firm evidence he could deliver on his abundant potential. However, this four-fold Solari legacy is one which, for varying reasons and to differing degrees, Zidane has not carried forward.
Vinicius was the big success story of Solari's reign - the ace up Madrid's sleeve that Lopetegui didn't realise he had. Given his chance by Solari, 'Vini' wasted little time in earning himself a starting spot at the LaLiga giants, taking the pressure of playing for Los Blancos in his stride and unleashing an exuberant brand of football that saw him establish himself as a major attacking influence. Indeed, his total game time of 1,610 minutes made him the 10th-most used player under Solari.
Now, however, Zidane has adopted a cautious stance on Vinicius, despite the 18-year-old forward being back at full fitness after overcoming an injury suffered before the Frenchman's re-appointment. Vinicius feels absolutely ready to return to action, and even believed he might do so against Athletic Bilbao last weekend. As Diario AS explained earlier this month, the Brazil Under-20 international will be a key figure in the Madrid of the future - but for now he'll have to be patient, it seems...
Reguilón, 22, was another youngster Solari placed real confidence in. Unmoved by big names or big reputations, the Argentine pressed the youth product into action at the expense of Marcelo - a man who ended up as one of the chief casualties of the former coach's tenure. The 11th-most used player under Solari, Reguilón responded with displays that won the approval of the Madrid support, and was shaping up as a sure-fire member of next season's squad - and a contender to start.
However, he has played in just two of Zidane's seven games back at the helm, and could even leave on loan this summer.
Ceballos had had the smile put back on his face under Solari, in the wake of a tough first year at Madrid that had seen him barely feature under Zidane. During his maiden campaign at the Bernabéu, the 22-year-old got just 899 minutes of playing time and, a few months after Zizou's resignation at the end of last season, admitted: "If he had stayed, I would've had to look for a move." Those words now appear to be coming back to bite Ceballos, who has gone from being the 12th-most picked player under Solari to appearing in just 21.66% of Los Merengues' overall game time under Zidane - and failing to even make the squad for the last two matches.
After Casemiro was ruled out for a month in November, Llorente emerged as Solari's solution at anchorman, albeit he was not the 42-year-old's first choice. Initially, the Argentine opted to use Ceballos at the base of the midfield, only for that experiment to prove a disaster in a 3-0 defeat at Eibar - and in the wake of that damaging reverse, Llorente was handed the regular run in the side that he craved. A player who had been weighing up a January departure, he was suddenly showing signs of being a potential long-term presence in Madrid's midfield.
However, his progress was blighted by untimely injuries, particularly an issue picked up in the Copa del Rey semi-finals against Barcelona - and under Zidane, who showed scant belief in the midfielder in his first spell as coach, he has slipped from 17th to 21st in Madrid's appearance rankings (from featuring 36.56% of the time to 14.62%). Like Ceballos, he has been left out of the last two games altogether.
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