Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
The history books will show that Real Madrid left the Estadio Jose Zorilla with a comfortable 4-1 win over Real Valladolid, but the result is a misleading one.
Before Los Blancos closed out the victory, the hosts had seen two goals ruled out for marginal offside calls and missed a penalty.
Had any of those gone in, at a time in the game when the visitors were at sixes and sevens, the outcome of the match could’ve been entirely different.
It brought the problems that Santiago Solari is facing into sharp focus, and the reticence of club staff post-match to guarantee him a longer tenure in the coaching position spoke volumes.
Strong rumours in Spain even suggest that Zinedine Zidane could make a return to the Santiago Bernabeu as early as this week, although just yesterday the rumors surrounded Jose Mourinho.
Hailing Solari as the saviour in the wake of Julen Lopetegui’s sacking seems a lifetime ago now, and three defeats inside a week – Barcelona in the Copa del Rey, Barcelona in La Liga and Ajax in the Champions League – all at home, have ensured that another changing of the guard is a foregone conclusion.
The Argentinian was the right appointment at the time, but when the going got tough, his limitations were there for all to see.
An outsider in the Champions League, Ajax gave the holders a footballing lesson that was as tough to swallow as the double defeat inside 72 hours against their fiercest rivals.
What’s more, Florentino Perez’s incredible dressing room rant at Sergio Ramos in the wake of the Ajax defeat, a game that the captain had deliberately ruled himself out of with a calculated yellow card in the first leg, is likely to result in the centre-back leading a mass exodus, particularly if it is Mourinho that arrives in Solari’s place.
Marcelo won’t win his place back from Sergio Reguilon and Juve beckons for the Brazilian thanks to a long-standing friendship with Ronaldo, whilst Isco has clearly lost the backing of his club and is highly likely to depart in the summer.
Both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have looked laboured throughout this campaign, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or both on their way, although clearly any new coach has to retain some sort of spine to the squad.
Gareth Bale is yet another who appears completely unhappy with his lot, and should the Welshman also depart, Karim Benzema won’t follow as he’s been one of Florentino’s favourites for some while now, having survived a cull or two in the past.
Expect Andriy Lunin to return from his loan spell at Leganes as Keylor Navas finally moves on to pastures new too.
Let’s not kid ourselves about this perfect storm either.
Some of the Champions League wins under Zinedine Zidane failed to mask Los Blancos’ failings domestically, so what’s happened in 2018/19 was always going to occur sooner or later.
At least next season Real can start with a completely clean slate again, because frankly that’s what’s needed if they want to get anywhere close to the top of the pile again.
After such a season of turmoil, a sea change in attitude from top to bottom is long overdue.