Real Madrid risks being left in the blocks

As it often did during his playing days, Real Madrid turned to Zinedine Zidane in January to offer some inspiration to haul them out of trouble.

cristiano ronaldo - cropped

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo will miss the first game of the season.

As it often did during his playing days, Real Madrid turned to Zinedine Zidane in January to offer some inspiration to haul them out of trouble.

The risky appointment of Rafael Benitez as Carlo Ancelotti's successor had backfired spectacularly: it looked well out of the title race, and the 4-0 Clasico defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu was as horrible to watch for the home fans as Ronaldinho's wondrously devastating display 10 years earlier.

Zizou changed all that. A first team with notorious egos bought into the Frenchman's insistence on simple hard work to back up the talent. A run of 17 wins in 20 league games — including a 2-1 revenge win at Camp Nou — and a second Champions League triumph in three seasons followed. 

Fast forward three months, and things no longer look so rosy. A confused transfer policy has seen Alvaro Morata's return the only major piece of business for Madrid, who surprisingly baulked at the prospect of breaking the world transfer record once again to sign Paul Pogba.

The futures of Isco and James Rodriguez remain the subject of serious speculation, with neither having convinced Zidane of their suitability to his plans, yet there have been few signs of further reinforcements, save for sketchy rumours of a Cesc Fabregas bid.

The signs are not all bad, of course. Madrid won the UEFA Super Cup despite missing half of its first team, and there are still two weeks of the transfer window to go.

But Zidane knows the importance of having a fully fit and motivated team to face Real Sociedad on day one if he is to stop Barca and Atletico getting a clear head-start before the first derby on November 20, and the opening Clasico on December 4.

"We know that the La Liga season is a very long one and that we've got to make a strong start," he said after a pre-season humbling by Paris Saint-Germain.

"We're still in the preparation phase and it's to be expected that we're lacking in some areas. We've got to work more and make things come as second nature, that's something that will happen gradually."

He knows he can't be too patient, though. Four years without the title is a long time for Madrid and President Florentino Perez. He is unlikely to tolerate a fifth.

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos