Zinedine Zidane, always reluctant to absolute sentences, said before traveling to Bilbao that this season was being the most complicated of his six as Real Madrid coach. He was referring to the cataract of injuries (almost 60) that has forced him to completely patch up the defense and recruit homegrown players, and the accumulation of positives from covid, a problem that even affected him. The sum of physical misfortunes has depleted the squad, especially in this final part, it has forced them to incorporate new troops (26 played last year and 31 this year), and multiply their competitive spirit to harass Atlético until the last season of the League. .
However, the causes of this thorny campaign go beyond the obvious health problems that have affected Valdebebas’s wardrobe. Some decisions about the squad, such as the absence of rotations during a central section of the course, the departure of some players in the summer and with the course already underway, and the collapse of others, have also left the French coach with a capacity for maneuver limited in this outcome of maximum demand and fatigue.
In August, Zizou found himself at the Ciudad Deportiva with three substitute forwards (Jovic, Mayoral and Mariano) to assist the indispensable Benzema and relieve the team’s scoring hieroglyph. A few months later, the only one who continued was the third, who had been shown the exit door the previous two summers. The 27-year-old Hispanic Dominican, the main substitute in the Frenchman’s two brief injuries, has barely scored a goal in 658 minutes, in November at Vila-Real (1-1).
Mayoral came out first, on loan for two seasons to Roma, where he scored a not inconsiderable figure of 17 goals in 2,259 minutes, and in January Jovic left, returning on loan to Eintracht with the aim of reactivate the 60 million it cost. In his case, the attempt has been half-done because he has only celebrated four targets in a gaseous trajectory. So, when the time came to play in Bergamo the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 against Atalanta with nine casualties in the expedition, Zidane was encouraged to place a waning Isco with a false nine to the detriment of Mariano.
Madrid’s average is the story of three brilliant men (Casemiro-Kroos-Modric) squeezed to the last drop. As soon as things got ugly at the end of November, with the Champions League group stage qualification on the wing, ZZ threw down the middle street and dedicated this plot to the monoculture of this magic triangle, for another A decisive part in all the good that has happened to the Whites this season. However, his forces entered the reserve a month ago. The German, down the two final crashes due to covid, reserved what little he had left for the semifinals against Chelsea, and the Brazilian was relieved at Stamford Bridge in one of the images that portrayed the distance that separated the whites from the blue at this junction.
From the compromising defeat in Kiev at the beginning of December until the return of the European quarters at Anfield, 27 games passed and the Casemiro-Kroos-Modric formation started in 20. It was only broken due to minor annoyances, cards or rest before more appointments urgent. Valverde, who began the course ahead of the Croatian (he was a starter and scorer at the Camp Nou), also went on to substitute before starting a very damaging sequence of injuries. Odegaard got tired of waiting and no one denied him a loan to Arsenal in January. Ceballos had left there in the summer, for which there was no room again with Zidane. And yes, Isco, the old guard of the coach who has lived this year the confirmation of his collapse, advanced in this final part by homegrown players. In sum, of the seven first-team midfielders Zidane has had at his disposal, only three have been there and performed continuously.
The fall of Isco is similar to that of Marcelo, two players whom the French coach pampered on his return and has tried to reel in this second stage on the white bench, until his football stopped. The Brazilian was always Zizou’s bet to complete the left back ahead of Reguilón, which, together with the club’s need to make money in times of pandemic, ended with the youth squad sold to Tottenham for 25 million. However, the defense was left lame on that flank due to the poor performance of Marcelo, who the coach has tried to alleviate by escorting him with three centrals. In the last week, in Granada and Bilbao, in the end it was Miguel Gutiérrez, one of the hopes of La Fábrica, who has taken those commands in the absence of Mendy, another example of physical crash after the tie against Liverpool after a year without respite.
A series of sporting decisions, and even economic ones of the club, have joined the many physical misfortunes in a squad that, yes, continues to aspire to repeat the title under the influence of Zidane on the cardinals of the dressing room, the forced discovery of people like Militão, the new life of Nacho or Lucas Vázquez, and the resistance of all of them.