Zinedine Zidane has returned to Real Madrid.
The club announced the sacking of Santiago Solari on Monday. Zidane, 46, will become Madrid’s third manager this campaign (Julen Lopetegui began the season and was let go in October).
Having left the club after winning his third consecutive Champions League last season, Zidane has reportedly signed a three-year contract that will take him through June 30, 2022.
Real Madrid are already eliminated from the Champions League Quarterfinals. In La Liga, they’re currently sitting third, 10 points clear of fifth place. They’re in no eminent danger of not qualifying for next year’s UCL. And they’re 12 points behind Barcelona for a La Liga title.
From Real Madrid’s perspective, getting Zidane now makes all the sense in the world. They keep other potential suitors, like Juventus, away from him.
Further, Zidane had a very close relationship with his players, like Sergio Ramos. It would be reasonable to believe the players went to management and just said, “we’ve had enough, bring back Zinedine.”
From Zidane’s perspective, the answer is harder to understand.
When he left in May 2018, he said he was “desgaste” — which means “out of gas.” However, he also said he was “not out of energy.” So it’s hard to take that at face value.
Many believe the real reason Zidane bailed on Madrid last year is he saw an aging roster that needed a reboot, and he didn’t have interest in sticking around for that. That was something he did not have the energy to oversee.
Virtually nothing has changed from the time he left until now, save for Cristiano Ronaldo being gone and Vinícius showing flashes of potential.
If he wanted to come back to Real Madrid, he could’ve waited until the season was over instead of enduring a fairly meaningless two months in La Liga. If he wanted to evaluate players for a 2019-20 overhaul, well, most of those aging players (Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos) have only gotten older. There’s not much new to evaluate. There’s also not much to gain from coming back now, except a paycheck, which is fine and absolutely his right. Regardless, we expect Zidane to shed some light on this one during his introductory press conference.
What Players Should be Concerned? And Who Is Coming In?
It would be hard to imagine Zidane is coming back if he didn’t have a firm idea over who he wants to jettison this summer. The names mentioned above (at least Bale and Benzema, as Ramos would likely be safe) would be leading candidates, along with potentially Luka Modrić.
Zidane would and should want a younger squad. After raking in record revenue, expect Real Madrid to be big spenders. Targets would be for a striker (expect someone younger than Harry Kane), creative wing (Eden Hazard, which most view as inevitable at this point), creative midfielder (Philippe Coutinho could be had), and center-back (Liverpool are already removing Virgil van Dijk from consideration with a big pay raise).
While there’s still a lot in the air, one thing is for sure: change is coming to the Bernabéu.