It was a surprise when Zinedine Zidane was brought back into the Real Madrid managerial fold in the latter part of last season, but in fairness to Florentino Perez, he had little option at the time.

Any other targets were committed to positions elsewhere, with the possible exception of Jose Mourinho.

Though the Portuguese is still well respected by Perez and his board, captain, Sergio Ramos, would rather walk over hot coals than have to work under the ‘Special One’ again.

Sergio Ramos is here to stay

Ramos himself was in the news during the past week, firstly because it had been confirmed that he had wanted to take up a new challenge in China, and then because he unequivocally committed his future to Los Blancos.

Zidane, evidently, is more than happy with Ramos. Ditto Marcelo, Carvajal, Benzema and the other players that make up his ‘old guard.’

Whilst Benzema can be absolved of any blame for Real’s shocking domestic season again in 2018/19, the same can’t be said of his colleagues.

Frankly, the fact that Ramos is almost certain to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu will have opposition strikers licking their lips. On far too many occasions in the last campaign, the centre-back was found wanting.

Marcelo didn’t look like he had a future under Santiago Solari but he was quickly reinstated when Zidane returned. Casemiro too.

All of which points to favouritism from the Frenchman. Something that hindered Los Blancos’ progress in the latter part of 2018/19 when they were awful for the most part.

Part of the reason that Zidane walked away 10 months previously was because he’d identified that the team had naturally come to the end of a cycle and it would be impossible to replicate such success again in the short term.

It does make his decision to return a little baffling, but not as much as the blanket refusal to dispense with certain players who clearly are past their sell by date for a club such as Real Madrid.

Sergio Reguilon was a revelation at left-back once Marcelo was dropped, ditto Marcos Llorente when Casemiro had some down time. Ramos’ leadership qualities were missed, but he’s lost a yard of pace and will be under pressure up against a sharp front line.

Zidane at the wheel

After finishing 17 points behind Barcelona in Zidane’s final La Liga season at the helm, they somehow managed to go one better and were 18 points behind the Catalans, an all-time record, in 2018/19.

The Frenchman had a part to play in that too, given that in the 11 domestic games he took charge of, only five were won, with four lost and two drawn. Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Real Betis, along with Valencia, beat them with ease.

The argument that’s been put forward is that Zidane had to go with what players he had in situ, and that’s true of course.

But it’s now where he needs to make those tough decisions in order to move Real forward again.

That he’s clearly unwilling to do so with certain players is bound to come back and haunt him at the business end of the season, not to mention stifling the careers of the likes of Reguilon, Marcos Llorente, Dani Ceballos, Alvaro Odriozola and others.

Out by Christmas? Don’t bet against it.

 

 

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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