Real Madrid seriously concerned about Zidane’s project
Zinedine Zidane’s job is not at risk yet, but executives at the club do not understand a number of his decisions concerning Odegaard, Jovic, etc.
Zidane’s job at Real Madrid is not at risk… for now. The disastrous defeat to third-tier minnows Alcoyano and the elimination from the Super Cup at the hands of Athletic Club have battered the already damaged status of the French coach within the club. Still, according to sources at the Bernabéu consulted by this newspaper, his sacking after the worst week at the club in a long time is still ruled out, at the moment. The idea is to keep things as they are until the Champions League tie against Atalanta, and then for the team’s performances in Europe to decide the future of Zizou. But the tightrope Zidane is on could break before then, for a number of reasons.
Another disastrous performance from Real Madrid could spell curtains for Zidane
Another disaster this Saturday in Vitoria (Real Madrid play Alavés at 21:00 in LaLiga) could force a drastic decision, although president Florentino Pérez is refusing to even think about this scenario at the moment. The problem for Zidane is that his standing has not just been damaged by the twin knock-outs in the Copa del Rey and Super Cup (Solari was fired for losing in three competitions in seven days) but also by the image presented by the coach and the way he has dealt with a number of players. The Bernabéu bosses don’t understand Zidane’s approach with certain younger players who are strategic bets for the club for the future, at the same time as he has protected veteran players who appear to be lacking motivation and are focused on things other than a desire for winning titles no matter what.
Odegaard: an urgent matter
In the oak-panelled executive suite at the Bernabéu the major talking point is how did things get to the point where Odegaard wants to leave the club, bored as he is of being an outsider, behind even Isco, who is far from the player he was when he was in the starting line-up which triumphed in the Champions League in Cardiff and Kiev. Real Madrid bosses also feel Zidane has made little use of players such as Lunin (who hadn’t played a single minute until the game against Alcoy), Odriozola, Militao, Vinicius and Mariano, to the point where when he calls upon them, they are far from their best form. Zidane's approach also led Jovic to ask to go out on loan, despite Zidane recommending his signing two summers ago, with the club spending 60 million on the player.
The club also see Zidane at fault for the fact youngsters such as Reguilón, Achraf, Marcos Llorente, Brahim and Borja Mayoral are succeeding at Tottenham, Inter, Atlético Madrid, Milan and Roma, having understood they had little or no chance of first team football under Zidane. Reguilón and Llorente are two clear cases, where the French coach refused to even give them the benefit of the doubt. Zidane has put his faith in his praetorian guard of 14 players, and it’s true they’ve won ‘LaLiga of the Coronavirus’ and have a total of 11 trophies, behind only the 14 of Miguel Muñoz. But the team currently appear to be in free-fall and Zidane seems unbothered by the fact.
Zizou’s lack of action has Real Madrid’s executives concerned. “It’s not a failure, these things can happen. Now we need to focus on the league and the Champions League,” Zidane said in Alcoy at the end of the game, to their disbelief. The thinking is that the coach is allowing some players to get away without making much effort, knowing they’ll still be part of the team, while others know they have no chance of playing, no matter what they do in training.
Zidane and the dressing room - a broken relationship?
The communication between Zidane and the dressing room is also nothing like as fluid as it was back in the glory days. Before the start of extra-time against Alcoy he could be seen talking only to Marcelo and Victor Chust, to discuss what happened in the corner that led to the goal, but there was no motivational team talk of the kind Zidane was known for before that showed how he was in perfect harmony with his players.
In summary, Real Madrid are not going to take any drastic action until at least the Champions League can be heard at grounds around Europe again (the game against Atalanta is on 24 February in Bérgamo), with the hope that in these 34 days Zizou is capable of firing the team up in the league, where they are still in a decent position to battle for the title with Cholo’s Atlético. But in this month of free Wednesdays if there are any more disasters of the kind we saw in La Rosaleda or El Collao, Zidane’s days on the Real Madrid bench are likely to be numbered…