Is Santiago Solari a Zidane MKII?5 min read
Finally, the Los Blancos ship has been steadied.
After the choppy waters of the Julen Lopetegui reign, Santiago Solari has sailed the good ship Real Madrid into altogether calmer waters.
Four games, four wins and with a winnable fifth on the horizon at Eibar.
Initially considered as a temporary measure, the former Real player did enough in his two-week caretaker role to convince the powers that be in the boardroom that he was worth taking a punt on.
Already admired and respected for the job he’d done at Castilla, his love of the club – but more importantly his innate knowledge of the inner workings of it – swung the balance in his favour.
In the same way as Zinedine Zidane won the immediate respect of the dressing room, Solari has exuded a calm authority and his players have responded. Indeed, there are many parallels with Zidane’s own reign.
Taking over the senior side after the evident failures of the previous incumbent, being promoted from the Castilla job (albeit Solari’s name was on the official paperwork when Zidane was ‘in charge’ because of the Frenchman’s lack of the right qualifications), hitting the ground running in terms of results…
There’s also the small matter of the internal politics of the club which really can’t be overlooked. Lopetegui seemed steadfast in his refusal to not play new signings, Vinicius Junior or Alvaro Odriozola. Even Mariano Diaz was marginalised and goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, wasn’t given the role he expected when signing.
With the former considered to be the new star of Brazilian football and the latter supposedly the best custodian in word football (if FIFA’s World Cup rankings are to be believed), president Florentino Perez moved quickly to secure their signatures. His expectation was that he would see his investments out quickly on the Bernabeu pitch repaying some of their hefty transfer fees.
It’s no coincidence that on Solari’s debut on the bench, Vinicius came on for more than the cursory three minutes Lopetegui had given him in his entire time at the club.
Perhaps the new man in charge was at an advantage as he’d overseen the 18-year-old at Castilla since the start of the season, and so knew perfectly well what he was capable of.
That said, there’s little doubt that Solari would’ve been keen to accede to his president’s wishes, in much the same way as Zidane was, at least initially. (He would later dig his heels in when Florentino tried to sign another keeper over his head, essentially to replace Keylor Navas).
Now the hard work really begins, however.
— International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) November 8, 2018
Expectation is already there because of the start he’s had, although in fairness it’s been a wonderfully accommodating group of fixtures to begin his tenure with.
He’ll be judged on silverware and there’s no doubt Solari has to win a trophy this season, with the first opportunity to do so coming in a month’s time at the Club World Cup.
His likely opponents will be either River Plate or Boca Juniors and, with respect, that’ll be his first real test and the chance to acknowledge if he does have what it takes to usher in another era of dominance.
Known as a great man-manager, a deep thinker and a true football man, he has everything at his disposal to be successful in the position. He also appears to have the Midas touch.
But only time will tell if he will become Zidane MKII.