The simple answer to that question is No. Less than nine months after leaving his position as Real Madrid’s manager, Zinedine Zidane can’t pick up from where he left off fundamentally because unlike the apogee of European football where he took the club, the side is currently facing a run of, more or less, insignificant fixtures.
Perhaps the greatest achievement for Real Madrid this season, hence, would be Zidane’s return itself. And what makes this comeback even more significant – given how the Frenchman left in the summer and how he has been asked to return – is the fact that Zidane would now be likely to operate on his own terms. It is precisely the contrary which forced him to leave in the first place.
No one could expect him to emulate another hat-trick of Champions League wins – or realistically even one for that matter in the near future – but he’s returning, in his own words, because he believes that he can win with Real Madrid.
Even in his last season, Zidane regretted the fact that Madrid weren’t as successful in La Liga, as he could only lead the side to one league title in the three seasons. His priority, clearly, is overtaking Barcelona as the dominant side in Spain, which also involves overcoming the persistent challenge of Atletico Madrid.
Having conquered Europe like no other side in recent memory, the focus on regaining stranglehold over Spain is precisely what Real Madrid need given that they have spent large part of the ongoing century under archrivals Barcelona’s shadows domestically.
The stay of Zidane’s immediate successor JulenLopetegui was short-lived as he left the club in October, with Real Madrid already out of La Liga race. Caretaker manager Santi Solari this month not only led Madrid out of Copa del Rey – following a home-and-away loss against Barca – he oversaw the 1-4 reversal at the hands of Ajax at the Bernabeu ending the side’s three year stretch as European champions.
Nobody expected Real Madrid to win the Champions League this year, including, most definitely, Florentino Perez. But the manner of the exit, coupled with everything that had preceded it this season, meant that the situation at the Bernabeu had reached a desperation point so catastrophic that the club president had to do something he has rarely ever done: compromise.
Yes, Zidane’s departure hinged on his insistence that the club needs restructuring. Majority of the club’s recent success – most notably the three Champions League titles – were won through the performances of an aging group of players. The most notable among these was, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has since moved to Juventus – and helped his new side pull off a memorable win over Atletico Madrid to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Champions League – after his own disagreements with Perez.
Zidane wants to inculcate a system that delivers sustained success, as witnessed at Barcelona, and not one that relies on superstars. The Galactico model, which Zidane himself headlined as a player two decades ago, needs an overhaul.
Of course, Real Madrid will always attract the biggest names in football. It’s the over reliance on them and not looking to create its own football ethos, which Zidane wants to change.
If it works anyway near as well as Zidane has envisioned, the disastrous 2018/19 season would be a small price to play for Real Madrid in the coming years. And what Zidane will have – unlike his predecessors, especially given the circumstances of his return – is time and control over matters that he feels should come under the club manager’s jurisdiction.
Indeed, Zidane’s return to Real Madrid will have a domino effect in Europe, with many clubs having lined him up this summer – another reason why Perez has jumped the gun and not waited any longer, before Zidane is taken by someone else.
The Frenchman had been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea with Maurizio Sarri’s future bleak at the latter and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer working wonders at the former as the caretaker boss. Indeed, if Manchester United feel that Solskjaer should get the permanent position as well, it could mean Mauricio Pochettino staying at Tottenham Hotspurs.
Once it was final that Zidane was going to be allowed to work the way he wants to, no other club would’ve factored in his mind. He has done so much for the club in so many different capacities that no one can argue that Real Madrid’s interests are close to his own heart.
And with his three-year record breaking stint he has further proven that not only is his heart in the right place as far as the Bernabeu faithful are concerned, but also that he has the nous to deliver the goods -even in a short stint. Now he is eying a lasting managerial legacy at Real Madrid.