Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, two iconic Galacticos signed under Fiorentino Perez’s tenure as Real Madrid’s president, both departed Real Madrid before the 18/19 season, the former resigning after Champions League glory in May 2018 whilst the later in a €100m deal to Juventus. Their departures have resulted in a drastic turn of fortunes on and off the pitch for Real Madrid in the new season.
Zinedine Zidane’s tactical astuteness and man management skills are often overlooked as many seem to attribute his managerial successes to his ability to galvanize the team as a club legend. In guiding Real Madrid to back to back Champions League triumphs and a first La Liga title in 5 years, Zidane preferred a more centrally compact 4-4-2 diamond formation to a conventional 4-3-3 used under previous managers. In doing so, he transformed Cristiano Ronaldo’s role in his team to great effect, utilizing him as a central striker instead of a left winger to reduce the physical workload on his aging star, whilst still maximizing his predatory instincts in front of goal. He also reinvented Casemiro as a central figure of his team, as the latter became a key protector sitting in front of his defense, breathing life into the holding midfielder overlooked under Rafael Benitez’s era. His man management skills are most evident in how he has managed to rest the aging ‘CR7’ on no less than 12 occasions in his final season without the latter’s complaint. This is no small feat for a man of Cristiano Ronaldo’s ego and desire to play.
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Casemiro has become an integral part of Real Madrid’s midfield.
It is perhaps, not surprising that following his resignation, they are currently sitting 5th in La liga after eighteen games, 10 points behind league leaders Barcelona, while having the manager who replaced him – Julen Lopetegui, sacked in the process. On the European front, they lost the UEFA Super Cup to city rivals Atletico Madrid whilst suffering unthinkable back to back defeats against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League group stages.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been the undisputed centre-piece in Real Madrid’s success for the past decade – 5 Ballon d’Ors, 15 trophies, 450 goals and 120 assists in 438 appearances. Besides being an evergreen goal-scoring machine known for amassing 40-50 goals a season on an extraordinarily consistent basis, his winning mentality was the X factor that he possessed, and which rubbed off on his team. He was a perfectionist, always at training early and hitting the gym to maintain peak physical performance; and also a game changer who took the biggest games by the scruff of the neck. Quoting another Real Madrid icon Fernando Hierro “If you have had him for so long, then it is normal to miss him. He has a winning mentality, and that is also transmitted to his colleagues.” Most ironically, his flawless adaptation to Serie A and Juventus’ current unbeaten start domestically is testament to what Real Madrid is currently missing – a talisman for the biggest occasions.
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Ronaldo has already scored 15 goals in 24 appearances for Juventus, staying undefeated in the process.
Whilst results on the pitch have undeniably deteriorated since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, his absence is starting to hurt the club financially too. The fan-base that Cristiano Ronaldo commanded as a club icon at Real Madrid cannot be underestimated, as he alone attracted 80,000 fans to his unveiling in 2009, a world record figure that still holds. Worryingly, with the departure of Ronaldo, the average home crowds at the Santiago Bernabeu have declined with this season’s average hovering at around 62,000 compared to 66,000 in the 17/18 season. Case in point? The curtain raiser for Real Madrid’s La Liga 18/19 season opener against Getafe at home attracted a measly crowd of 48,466, the lowest attendance at home since 2009 – before Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Real Madrid. The club has also lost a significant contributor of their shirt sales on top of the dwindling home attendance. After all, ‘CR7’ is more than just a footballer, he is a footballing brand, and in modern business, branding is everything.
Real Madrid’s success in the 21st Century under Fiorentino Perez’s tenure has always been founded on the presence of global superstars, as evident in the two ‘Galactico Eras’ he so painstakingly built. There has always been a key figure they could turn to on the pitch to make magic happen, be it Ronaldo in the early 2000s, or Cristiano Ronaldo in more recent times. The glaring absence of ‘CR7’ on the pitch is further compounded by the lack of a world class manager at the helm. It is no coincidence that the most successful managerial periods in the club’s recent history has been orchestrated by either proven world class managers, (Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti who led Real Madrid to 7 trophies between them) or undisputed club legends turned managers who understood the culture, structure and inner workings of Real Madrid (Vincente Del Bosque and Zinedine Zidance who shared 16 trophies between them). The recent managerial appointments of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari are nowhere near the past managers repertoire.
Julen Lopetegui sacked in just 14 games
Real Madrid without a genuine global footballing icon is like a ship without a captain, bound to be lost. The gaping holes in the shape of ‘CR7’ and Zinedine Zidane have to be filled fast, before it ends up costing Real Madrid all too dearly.Leave a comment