Zidane: PR when the Bernabeu dynasty is about to Crumble?
And Jesus looked at his disciples, asked: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” A question Florentino Perez needed not to ask – especially, in the last seven days that looked like the worst in the Los Blancos history.
Since Perez came in on board in 2009 as Real Madrid’s president for the second time, he had hired and fired seven managers – the successful and the unsuccessful ones. Alas, success within the Madrid context is complicated. One of the club’s biggest mantras has always been “no player is bigger than the club.” And while many players are expected to be shown the exit door at the end of the summer, erstwhile manager Santiago Solari was a dead man walking right from the day he was appointed. Meanwhile, Perez wouldn’t be an exemption.
It was the ‘voice’ of Captain Sergio Ramos against the 72-year-old after the club’s ignominious Champions League exit to Ajax on Tuesday, but the ‘position’ of nearly all Madridistas – “No President is bigger than Madrid.” The fans wanted Perez out. He had let them down with poor planning and investment in the summer when talisman Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Juventus. A right-well-thinking-minded saw Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, and Mariano Diaz as the perfect replace for Madrid’s all-time scorer.
Far from that, the abrupt announcement of Julen Lopetegui as Madrid coach on the eve of World Cup, happened to be the genesis of division at the club. His successor Solari briefly breathed life to the team. And in a short while, there was a ruin. Isco, Marcelo, and Bale against the Argentine and the fans since he took charge. Ramos vs Perez on Tuesday, Captain Ramos vs Assistant Captain Marcelo on Saturday. Can a house divided against itself stand?
Sacking Solari was needed to fix the house up, before the clearing up of other messes. Winning any competition is out of sight and outcomes of the result of the remaining 11 league games is not that important. So, appointing a new coach was less about changing results’ and fortunes, but a coach, who could help redeem the club’s public image and perception. A coach, who could help elongate the dynasty.
There could only be one man – Zinedine Zidane, the brainbox behind Real Madrid reign as European Champions for 1012 days, and when he turned down the approaches of going back to the Madrid’s dugout less than a year after leaving, the idea of bringing Jose Mourinho, who was relieved from Manchester United last December popped up.
Mourinho was Los Blancos manager from 2010-2013. Whilst he was a success at the club, his tenure was flawed by introducing negative attitude at the club. The Madrid journalists won’t let him rest for his treatment of Iker Casillas, likewise, other hanging around, and would use his appointment to surge the flame of already a tumult environment. Will Mourinho come in and douse the tension amongst the players? Between Perez, the players and the fans? The player power factor came in – figures like Ramos came in to object bringing the Portuguese into the dugout.
Will Perez want to take gamble on Mauricio Pochettino in the summer? If it does not play out, there won’t be anywhere for him to hide again. Then, the only option is for the business mogul to keep knocking at Zidane. ‘Maybe it had some sorts of blackmailing,’ joked Kunle Ajao. But which way, it had to do with Perez doing the needful to salvage the image of the club, and he would go as far as for the first time guarantee the manager a big say in squad decisions – and assurance Zidane got alongside a big summer investment before he agreed to stage the heroic comeback.
Zidane’s first tenure at the club was less about his tactical acumen – as until the tail end of his departure when he switched to a flat midfield that had Benzema and Ronaldo upfront, and the quintet of Isco, Modric, Kroos, and Casemiro in midfield, he played 4-3-3 majorly. The rule was simple under him: just outscore the opponent and with Ronaldo at his disposal, it was very simple.
But one input Madrid are going for majorly is the man management skill of the former Les Blues midfielder. Managing figures like Ronaldo, Bale, Ramos, Marcelo, et al wasn’t an easy task whilst underrated at times, and according to Zidane’s former teammate Steve McManaman, ‘People would be singing from the rooftops if managers like Guardiola achieved what Zidane did in the space of three years at Madrid.
McManaman posited: “The players were not happy when he was appointed. He has gone on to win two Champions Leagues. If Pep Guardiola had done this people would be singing from rooftops.”
Madrid as a house won’t stand because everyone (players, coach, fans, board, and President) was divided. The Madrid dynasty would crumble. Who could fix it all up? In the words of la Liga expert Sid Lowe, ‘It takes man that won it all, to fix it up all, when Madrid have lost it all.’