Sometimes, trying to relive the past does not end well. For Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane, currently with the club for his second managerial stint, this lesson has never been more painfully apparent.
Zidane’s second term with Real has been an abject disappointment, failing to capture any of the magic of his first stint as manager from 2016 to 2018. During his first run as manager, he was named “The Best FIFA Men’s Coach,” as Real embarked on a stretch of dominance over the Union of European Football Associations Champions League.
When Zidane voluntarily stepped down in 2018, he likely recognized that an aging roster without striker Cristiano Ronaldo would require more work than he was prepared to undertake. Upon returning to the club one year later, his instincts appear correct.
Real’s struggles this season have extended to both domestic and continental play. In Spain’s La Liga, the club has fallen behind a Barcelona team that has been missing its centerpiece, Lionel Messi, for most of the season due to injury. Last weekend, Real lost 1-0 to Mallorca, a club that finished fifth in the second division of Spanish football last season.
The picture is perhaps even gloomier in the UEFA Champions League, in which Real has historically established its dominance. The team was throttled 3-0 by Paris Saint-Germain, another elite European club, in a game in which Real did not register a single shot on target.
That calamity was followed by a 2-2 draw to Club Brugge, a Belgian team that has never made it out of the group stage in the history of the Champions League and was destroyed 5-0 by PSG.
Although the team rescued an unconvincing 1-0 win against Galatasaray on Tuesday, a group stage match against a Turkish squad with one-tenth the market value of Real should be a virtual guaranteed victory for one of the most decorated clubs in Europe. The fact that this game was discussed as a “make-or-break” point for Zidane’s second tenure as manager shows how far off the deep end things have gone.
Real banked on continuing Zidane’s legacy again following a disappointing 2018 to 2019 season, but, after a summer of spending and the promises of a new-look roster, it is apparent that Zidane is not the man fit for the job.
Éder Militão’s and Luka Jović’s signings brought the potential for more youth and dynamism in the squad, but Zidane has regularly kept both players on the bench. Eden Hazard, the club’s prized $112 million signing from Chelsea, has struggled to find his form in Zidane’s system, registering just one goal in seven games for Real.
Amid public feuding with Real star Gareth Bale — whom Zidane unsuccessfully tried to sell to Chinese team Jiangsu Suning this summer — a disappointing club performance and an overall dysfunctional squad, the manager is rightfully on the hot seat.
With the news that former manager José Mourinho — whose accomplishments at Real included a La Liga record for most points in a season — would return if Zidane is fired, the time to act is now. Real cannot, in good conscience, allow Zidane to continue to mismanage this immensely talented roster for a moment longer.