The End of an Era
When Zidane took over Real Madrid, he had world-class players all over the pitch and in the prime of their careers. 5 years on since his first appointment and the squad needs major refreshment. Some of the players he started with have left Los Blancos (see Cristiano Ronaldo & Gareth Bale), some are no longer the players they once were due to injuries and age (see Dani Carvajal and Marcelo) while some are suffering more and more injuries caused by age/ wear & tear (see Sergio Ramos). The absence of the captain and spirit leader Sergio Ramos is becoming worrisome. Raphael Varane is a world-class defender but he does not look it when the Spanish captain is not by his side.
The midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro needs some refreshment too. They are still going strong but they have to be planning to rest the former 2. Kroos turned 31 last month and Modric is 35 and about to renew his contract for 1 more year. Real Madrid need to start a rebuilding process now.
In attack, Karim Benzema has carried much of the workload in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and the decline of Gareth Bale. He is the only bright spark in Madrid’s attack at the moment as they look limp going forward. Also, Real Madrid do not look so keen on renewing Sergio Ramos’ contract. Despite how defeated they look without him, it is surprising to see how calm they are about his contract situation (he is free to leave at the end of the season). Madrid have also not found a suitable backup to Casemiro since the departure of Marcos Llorente. They do not have a proper defensive midfielder in case of an injury to the Brazilian.
Operation Not Again Has Not Worked For Florentino Perez
When Florentino Perez missed out on signing Neymar Jr, something changed inside of him ( he will never let this happen again under his watch). Since then the Real Madrid president has gone on a hunting spree, signing every Brazilian youngster that can perform an elastico (rather than aggregating the money and signing the real Neymar).
Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo Goes, and Reiner were all signed by the Madrid president to avoid missing out on the next Neymar yet none of them looks like they will come close to the current PSG superstar. Vinicius Jr has the potential to be a serious player in the future but his decision-making in the final third should be developing at another club and not frustrating fans at the Santiago Bernabeu. Rodrygo Goes has good finishing and better reading of the game but lacks the driving ability of Vinicius. Reiner has been unable to find game time at Madrid and a loan move to Borussia Dortmund is not helping either.
Zinedine Zidane Needs Help
Imagine going from having CR7 and Bale down your flanks to Vinicius and Rodrygo. It must not be easy for the coach. He must be losing hairs on his head over this. The truth is that Zidane is maximizing what he has but he needs better material to work with. This aggressive youth policy is not a logical stance for a club of Madrid’s status.
Zidane did not come to babysit youngsters who want to fulfill their dreams of playing for Real Madrid, he came to win titles, and to win titles, you need good players. Even last season, when they won the league title, they did it with their defensive organization. Real Madrid scored 70 goals, 16 less than Barcelona’s 86. There is a scoring deficit at the club and they need goalscorers to fix this. In the 18/19 season, Barcelona won the league scoring 90 goals while Real Madrid achieved much less with 63. It was all the more confusing when Perez made Eden Hazard (a creator/dribbler) the primary target for that summer.
Madrid’s top scorer in the league this season is Benzema with 14 goals, the next on the list is Casemiro with 5. This is the worrying. The next attacker on the list is Vinicius with 3 goals. Not the sort of numbers a club like Real Madrid should be managing but here we are.
There Needs to Be a Rebuilding
Project save a Brazilian child has not worked so far and there is little to show that it will bear the kind of fruit that Perez had in mind. Eden Hazard’s legs have become tenderized meat. He has missed more games than he has played for Real Madrid and this union has been nothing short of disappointing for everyone involved. Perez and Zidane know that they have some rebuilding to do. They may have different ideas of how to rebuild but rebuild they must. Zidane moved quickly to shut down rumors of him stepping down at the end of this season and if anything, he is a man of his word. Zidane and Perez need to work together to shape this squad and make it more competitive.
In goal, they are set. Thibaut Courtois is a long-term signing that should carry the mantle long enough. In defense, they need a successor to Sergio Ramos and David Alaba is not it. They need a reliable, commanding, and fearless leader at the back. Their stance not to renew Ramos’ contract is puzzling considering how important he is to the defense but if they want to move on now, a former left-back who is not so comfortable at center-back is not the best option. If they want to let Sergio Ramos go then they have to be prepared to sign a defender worthy of that position. They need an established world-class defender.
Ferland Mendy has made the left-back position his and Dani Carvajal still has something to offer on the right. In midfield, they have Federico Valverde waiting in the wings but they need a backup holding midfielder. Less importantly, they need another central midfielder with Martin Odegaard struggling for game time under Zidane (there is no sign to show that this will change when he returns from Arsenal). According to reports, the Madrid club is looking at Inter Milan’s Nicolo Barella as a replacement for Modric and there have also been links to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Florian Neuhaus. But right now, a holding midfielder is more important.
In attack, Real Madrid need to secure loan deals for their 3 Brazilians to develop while they go after the big sharks. The dream continues to be PSG’s Kylian Mbappe. Mbappe’s contract will have just a year left and it feels like this might be the right time to go all-in for him.
Real Madrid need his pace and dynamism in the final third more than anything. They need an attacker whose movement can cause danger off the ball as much as with the ball. When Karim Benzema used to drift to the left, Ronaldo used to make his darting runs forward to occupy the defensive line but this is not Hazard’s forte. When it is Vinicius playing, he is bound to make a lot of rash decisions in the final third. Madrid need someone who always makes those runs and can be decisive in that final phase. The Erling Haaland dream can wait another year for his 75 million Euros release clause to kick in but Mbappe changes the current dynamics of this side up top.
Atletico Madrid look set to lift this season’s La Liga title as they are 10 points clear with a game in hand but Real need to start preparing for the seasons ahead. A figurehead leader to replace Sergio Ramos and some thrust in the final third is paramount. After which they need to find a suitable backup for Casemiro who still has some time ahead of him. This is before they have to start looking for a Karim Benzema replacement. Mbappe should be a priority, a central defender too.