The speculation started swirling almost as soon as Zinedine Zidane walked through the Santiago Bernabeu door again. The Frenchman’s return as Real Madrid manager was a shock, not least because of the way he’d left the club just nine months previously. His relationship with Florentino Perez, it was said, had broken down over direction and transfers, or a lack thereof, so Zidane surely got what he wanted in being lured back.
Indeed, Real Madrid are expected to make big moves in the transfer market this summer. Zidane will be afforded the freedom to mould his team as he likes, with a deal for Porto defender Militao already secured. But other, more illustrious names have been linked – the likes of Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar etc.
Zidane’s rebuild should be about more than just attracting a new generation of ‘Galacticos,’ though. This was demonstrated by the performance of three players in particular as the Frenchman got off to a winning start in his second stint as Real Madrid manager with victory over Celta Vigo last weekend.
Having been ostracised by previous manager Santiago Solari, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale and Isco were all handed starts by Zidane and all three repaid that faith, with the latter two scoring. It was a reminder of the under-utilised talent that remains at the Santiago Bernabeu. Neither Santiago nor Julen Lopetegui made the most of that.
Questions remain over Bale. The Welshman’s relationship with Zidane wasn’t the warmest, leading him to make comments after last season’s Champions League final suggesting a move away from Real Madrid was on the cards. Bale only stayed because Zidane left, so the return of the former Ballon d’Or winner rakes up old questions.
Asensio and Isco, on the other hand, were seen as the future of Real Madrid by Zidane in his first spell. Asensio, in particular, flourished under the Frenchman, when he looked like one of the best young players in the European game. Since then, Asensio has lost his way, but his performance against Celta Vigo suggests confidence is flowing back into his game.
It’s certainly true that Real Madrid need rejuvenation. They need a new direction and new players in the transfer market this summer. But they also need to make the most of what they have got. They haven’t done that this season, but Zidane might be the man to change this.
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