Zinedine Zidane is the perfect manager for Real Madrid’s transition

Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Amidst all the noise about Zinedine Zidane’s job security at Real Madrid, there is one crucial point often lost in the discussion. This team is still rebuilding.

When Real Madrid spent about 300 million euros in the summer 2019 transfer window, only one-third of those funds were invested in a player in the prime of his career. And that superstar was coveted Chelsea left winger Eden Hazard, who has been as-advertised when healthy. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been truly at full strength since November of last year.

But look closer at where Real Madrid spent the rest of the money. Rodrygo Goes is a future superstar. Luka Jovic was brought in to be Karim Benzema’s potential successor. Ferland Mendy will be a superstar left back for years and years to come. Eder Militao has the same potential at center back.

The 2019 window was all about getting younger. It was Zinedine Zidane‘s first full transfer window in his second stint as Real Madrid manager, and he made a clear statement: this team needs to look towards the future.

This summer, Real couldn’t sign anyone. Well, it’s not that they literally couldn’t sign anyone, but they made a smart business decision. Real looked at the available options, looked at their financial situation, and knew they couldn’t realistically buy any young superstars who would change the course of the team’s future. But in 2021 and 2022, they could sign multiple players of that caliber in Kylian Mbappe, Eduardo Camavinga, Erling Haaland, and either Dayot Upamecano or Jules Kounde at center back.

As frustrating as it is to watch Real Madrid struggle against opponents like Cadiz, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Borussia Monchengladbach, the suffering is part of the journey. And as tough as it is to watch Vinicius Junior, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo Goes take their lumps, it is all part of the process of rebuilding Los Blancos the right way.

This club is still very much in the midst of a youth movement. Real Madrid have a great core of veteran players in Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal, Thibaut Courtois, and Raphael Varane. These are experienced players who rate among the best in the world. Fede Valverde and Ferland Mendy are young players who are already at that level. Martin Odegaard, Eder Militao, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, and Luka Jovic have that potential. And that’s not even touching on loanees like Takefusa Kubo and Reinier Jesus.

Zinedine Zidane can give the next generation of Real Madrid stars the right guidance

The problem is that it takes time to transition. Real Madrid haven’t replaced Cristiano Ronaldo, because replacing one of the greatest players in history is not easy, if not, in Zidane’s own words, impossible. It takes waiting for the right guy, at the right time, and the right pieces around him. And it takes having a manager and team around him that has the belief and wisdom of a champion to make it all work and to get the most out of that superstar so he can truly be a superstar.

Los Blancos have identified the superstar. Kylian Mbappe. But as important as the superstar is the coach, because it takes a leader to lead 11 and make an elite team generate elite results.

For the critics of Zinedine Zidane, why isn’t the three straight Champions League titles sufficient evidence of his greatness? If it were really a carry job by Ronaldo, who come this feat had not been accomplished by Ronaldo, Messi, or any other superstar player or super-team before?

It is true that Los Blancos had great players. But Zidane brought them all together and turned them into an unbeatable force, capable of doing the unthinkable with unmatched consistency. He is a World Cup winner and one of the most decorated players ever, but he is also a player’s coach and one of the few managers capable of leading a superstar team with humility and dignity. How many managers have proven they can do that? Who else has earned that respect and has the results to back it up?

If you want to build a team of young superstars, manage them, and instill the values of winning at the most pressurized club on this planet, you will not find a better manager than Zinedine Zidane. It is literally impossible to name a manager who Real Madrid could conceivably hire who can do that. In the future, Julian Naglemsann could be that guy. Jurgen Klopp is an amazing coach as well.

But Real Madrid already have Zidane, who is even more accomplished than those two in terms of silverware. That is not to say he is better tactically or even better overall. But “better” is subject and, in all honesty, immaterial.

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The respect Zidane’s name alone generates from young players is important. And again, the results speak for themselves. Above those two things, though, the process is clear to see. Zidane has been part of frustrating situations. He has dealt with injuries. He has battled pressure, expectations, and youthful mistakes in a growing squad.

Zidane is the right man for the job. He always has been, and there isn’t a manager you could pick out who can turn a new generation of Galacticos into the next true European juggernaut.