Saturday 21 July 2018

Europe key to Zidane's future at Real Madrid

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane . Photo: Reuters
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane . Photo: Reuters

Ed Malyon

Real Madrid will stick by Zinedine Zidane despite their La Liga title challenge being all but over after last Saturday's embarrassing 3-0 Clásico defeat.

Club sources insists "nothing to worry about" with regards to the Frenchman's future, even with the reigning European champions some 14 points off Barca's pace in La Liga.

Second-half goals from Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal crushed Madrid to leave them languishing in fourth place.

While the hosts had been the superior side in the first half, the scoreline told its own story for Zidane, who made the bold call of leaving Isco, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio on the bench.

The curious selection of Mateo Kovacic as a specialist man-marker ultimately backfired, with Messi repeatedly dragging the midfielder out of position to allow Ivan Rakitic, another Croatian, to drive through the middle of the field and set up Barca's opener.

Beaten Up

"I know I'm going to get beaten up (in the media) for the decision to start Kovacic ahead of Isco, but I'm never going to change. I'm here to make decisions and, if we'd scored in the first half, it would all have been different," said Zidane in the post-match press conference.

"We are not playing badly - that's why it is even more painful.

"Football can change so quickly. Many people said they (Barcelona) were bad in pre-season, and now we will be labelled as bad.

"This is football and we have to accept it. When you win, (people think) everything is wonderful and when you lose, everything is f***** up."

Of course not everything is necessarily "f***** up" for Real Madrid. Zidane is the first coach to successfully defend the Champions League and could yet make it a hat-trick in Kiev next summer.

But if he doesn't do that, it will be a difficult off-season for him, with Antonio Conte likely to be available at that point and Mauricio Pochettino another possible successor.

For all the records Zidane has broken, at times he sounds like a broken record. Players like his calmness and ability to empathise but sometimes those qualities fall flat when things go bad.

Irish Independent

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