REAL MADRID

Real Madrid eye Raúl, Pochettino as potential Zidane replacements

Real Madrid's poor early-season form has led the club's hierarchy to consider their available options if Zinedine Zidane has to be replaced.

Real Madrid eye Raúl, Pochettino as potential Zidane replacements

Real Madrid’s defeats to Cádiz and Shakhtar Donetsk, coupled with the unsatisfactory nature of their overall performances in this early-season period, have led the Spanish giants to consider their coaching options.

The move is also motivated by a desire to be generally prepared for a change in the dugout: club bosses are mindful of the fact that current incumbent Zinedine Zidane is a coach capable of making unexpected decisions over his future, as was evidenced by his resignation in 2018 and return to the post nine months later.

Real Madrid president favours Raúl promotion from Castilla job

If the Frenchman has to be replaced, there are two clear candidates: Raúl, who is already at the club as Castilla head coach, and former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, the only unattached coach who fits Madrid’s profile. It would not be the first time that Madrid have approached Pochettino, having also contacted him before appointing Julen Lopetegui as Zidane’s successor. He was also linked with Los Blancos in 2019, when the team last suffered a major dip under Zidane.

If Madrid's poor results continue and lead to a change of coach, club president Florentino Pérez’s preferred option would be Raúl. It was Pérez who insisted on the Madrid legend returning to the club after his spell as a LaLiga ambassador in the US. Raúl’s candidacy is boosted by the UEFA Youth League he won with Madrid Under-19s, but there are doubts over his readiness for the step-up to the seniors.

When Zidane took charge of the first team, he had spent a season as number two to former Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti and overseen 57 games as Castilla boss. Raúl, on the other hand, spent only a few months as a liaison between the president and the first team, a role that did not include coaching duties, and has been Castilla coach for just 29 games.

Pochettino: "Of course coaching Real Madrid is one of my dreams"

As for Pochettino, his flirtations with Real Madrid have been a constant in recent times. He is available and eager to get back to work, but the problem for Madrid is that he would demand a longer contract than a coach already in-house, with as many safeguards as possible. This could clash, for example, with the club's insistence on only paying off sacked coaches for the remainder of the current season and the last year of their deal.

Pochettino came closest to joining Madrid in the summer of 2018, but had just extended his Tottenham deal until 2023. “Do you need to be brave to coach Real Madrid? I don’t think so,” he said at the time, leaving the door open for a future move to the Bernabéu. And there have been many more nods from the Argentine.

His most recent came in an interview on Spanish radio in September. “Of course coaching Real Madrid is one of my dreams,” he told Cadena COPE. “I don't know if I'll ever coach Madrid, but of course it's my dream. They’re one of the best clubs in the world, if not the best. I'm no different; everyone has Madrid on their list of dreams."

Incidentally, he also used the interview to distance himself from Barcelona, declaring: “I wasn’t offered the Barça job [after Quique Setién’s sacking this summer]. I didn't meet with [Blaugrana president Josep María] Bartomeu. I did have lunch with [club director] Ramón Planes, but just because we have been friends for many years, since 2009 when he joined Espanyol."