“This club has great history and we’re writing more now, as the club has done over the years. Madrid never give up,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane may be known for his hard as nails attitude but one could distinctly feel a tinge of emotion in his voice as his beloved club earned a spot in the UCL finals for the third successive season after a hard-fought win over bitter rivals Bayern Munich.
The Frenchman’s comments drew mixed responses from the experts with a certain section of the pundits perceiving his remarks as “downright arrogant” in nature. The Los Blancos certainly had the perfect response in store with a dominating 3-1 win in the Champions League finals over cup challengers Liverpool, emerging as the only side to lift the illustrious trophy for 3 consecutive years.
While a certain section of the footballing world have been quick to label this success as nothing but a mix of dumb luck with a lot of key moments in their favour and favourable seeding, that has hardly been the case. The Spanish legendary outfit have been successful mainly on the back of their astute footballing system, desire to excel at any cost and shrewd decision making which has certainly evolved by leaps and bounds since the days when splashing the cash on Galacticos was deemed the order of the day.
One needs to take a look no further than the overall team composition currently under Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui despite splashing minimal cash on new recruits for comprehending the beauty of the Los Blancos’s footballing system. Almost every position enjoys intense competition with some of the best in the business battling it out toe-to-toe for a spot in the matchday lineup. There is no room for complacency in the squad with a couple of bad performances or lack of correct attitude in training paving the way for an unceremonious exit from the club.
“The word ‘untouchable’ doesn’t exist in the starting XI, we have great players, and something one goes in and another, we have great alternatives, sometimes the one that comes in is essential,” said Lopetegui. “We are delighted with the team we have and we will keep working.”
Astoundingly, this intense competition has extended to the unlikeliest of footballing positions: the goalkeeper’s berth. Footballing history has rarely witnessed the presence of two world-class goalkeepers on the bench except in the rarest of the occasions. While most of the sides fear risking a growing sense of discontent in the camp, others deem the decision as unfeasible in nature.
Club President Florentino Perez’s desire to make a big-money signing more than capable of drawing in commercial revenue as well as delivering quality performances led to the decision of investing in the services of Chelsea goalie Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian goalie who enjoyed a stunning campaign personally during the recently concluded world cup pulling off save after save was considered the perfect addition to the goalkeeping department following calls for Keylor Navas‘s head after a couple of rare bloopers.
This decision has the ability to pay rich dividends as evident in the case of Barcelona who divided goal-keeping responsibilities between Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and German superstar Marc Ter Stegen ensuring quality performances with the side going on to lift the treble in the 2014/15 season. There will also be an additional motivation for the recruits to put their best foot forward whenever afforded opportunities due to the ever-lurking danger of being replaced in favour of the other.
At the same time, the decision to emerge as the only side with 2 world-class goalkeepers can have negative ramifications as well with a growing sense of competition more than capable of harming the overall team harmony. The perfect example of such an eventuality would be the chaos which struck Chelsea following the arrival of Thibaut Courtois from Atletico Madrid at the end of his loan spell. Manager Jose Mourinho found his work cut out with the presence of 2 world class keepers in the form of Peter Cech and Thibaut Courtois on the bench with the former sacrificed in an unceremonious fashion. The loss of a popular figure like Cech who had given his heart and soul on the pitch for the club certainly came back to hurt Chelsea.
It is also a double-edged sword to bench any of the 2 players on a consistent basis due to the immense support enjoyed by Navas from his teammates while Courtious enjoys the unconditional support of President Perez. A clash in the interests of the team and the president would prove to be hara-kiri, resulting in chaos.
Real Madrid have undertaken a brave decision by investing in the services of Thibout Courtious for a reasonable fee, converting the goalkeeping department from the Achilles heel to one of the ultimate strengths of the side. However, as we have seen in the past, even the best of the decisions can come back to hurt you badly if not executed perfectly.
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