The Blame Game: What’s wrong at Real Madrid?

Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images) /

Subpar performances, questionable decisions, and a plethora of frustration. Real Madrid are currently in the midst of a frustrating lull, with fans around the world perplexed by the situation. But why has the club seemingly hit such a wall?

A little over a month ago, Real Madrid were riding a wave. The results were coming, the play was improving – everything looked bright for Los Blancos. They were fresh off a solid performance as bitter rivals Atlético Madrid, as they would go onto claim seven wins out of seven.

However, following the festive period, Real have slipped into something of a slumber. Recent results haven’t been good enough and the performances have been inadequate. Once again, defensive errors are becoming common, whilst the attack has looked bereft of ideas.

As is often the case, when the results slip and the performances waver, fans naturally look to the cause of that and search for something or someone to blame. Off the back of their Super Cup loss against Athletic Club, fans have seemingly hit boiling point.

Questions are once again being asked of Zinedine Zidane: Why hasn’t “X” started? Why is “X” still in the line-up? All of which, are very valid questions. Where is Martin Ødegaard? Why is Fede Valverde seemingly not being trusted, after being a breakout star last campaign? Zidane is in-fact part of the issue, but is it directly his fault?

In the case of the Norwegian, his lack of inclusion has been one that has fans scratching their heads. Last season, Ødegaard was second only to Barcelona’s Leo Messi for shot-creating in LaLiga. In fact, if you compare his stats for key passes per 90, he was superior to any midfielder in Madrid’s roster last campaign, offering 2.4 key passes per 90, with 2.3 dribbles completed.

In Real’s last 10 games, he has featured for a grand total of six minutes. Zidane’s seeming lack of trust in his options is something not seen before. Previously famed for his consistent rotation, the Frenchman seems to have completely abandoned that this season.

Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid
Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Although, Real’s struggles are seemingly deeper rooted and most historic than they appear. Whilst Los Blancos did in fact lift the league title last year, it was not in the fashion many would have expected. Instead of being built on Real’s famed belief of attacking, Zidane instead built it on a solid defence. But was that arguably out of necessity?

Offensively, Real have been slipping year on year since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. That is natural of course, replacing someone of Ronaldo’s stature is always going to be a huge task. But Real have come absolutely nowhere near doing that.

In every single season since his departure, they’ve declined in goals scored. In 18/19 it was 108, in 19/20 it was 99. Real haven’t had at least two forwards hit double digits for goals since 18/19, and in 19/20, Karim Benzema was the only forward to hit double digits.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema  (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images) /

For a club the size of Real Madrid, it is unacceptable for them to have not planned for this kind of situation. Whilst it is exciting to have future stars like Rodrygo and Vinicius, where does the hoarding stop? Was it truly necessary to buy Reinier Jesus? A player who’s now posing a headache for Real Madrid, due to not being played.

The 30 million Euros spent on the Brazilian could certainly have been spent far better. Even outside the forward line, the club has gaps elsewhere. Casemiro has no direct back-up, which is alarming given his importance. Marc Roca, who signed for Bayern, was available. The former Espanyol man would have served as a perfect back-up, costing just 15 million Euros.

This is where the problem lies with Real Madrid. It seems Florentino Pérez and Co. have mixed up priorities. Yes, future-proofing is important, but so is the present. His lack of spending last summer has potentially cost Real being able to compete. The squad has long been in need of rejuvenation.

Beyond that, Florentino Pérez knows what Zidane is as a coach. He’s a winner, give him the correct pieces and he’ll turn that into a winning machine. Does that mean he’s incapable of developing talent? Absolutely not.

Real Madrid. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Real Madrid. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) /

In fact, Zidane has shown a few times that he is indeed capable of utilising emerging stars. Casemiro played just 12 games under Rafa Benitez, prior to his sacking. After some time on the bench under Zizou, he became a constant starter. Fede Valverde? He became a starter under Zidane. Marco Asensio enjoyed his best moments under Zidane, Rodrygo was beginning to look his just before being struck by injury this campaign. Zidane knows how to nurture talent.

But how long can you ignore the need for immediate success over future success? The club has long been shorting itself due to inadequate planning. Whilst European rivals are continuing to strengthen, Real remain in the dark.

How long can you blame the pandemic hitting the club financially? Atleti just secured Moussa Dembélé on loan with a low future fee, Erling Braut Haaland is being linked with Barcelona, who were talking about bankruptcy just a month ago.

A club of Real’s stature cannot just sit and bank on a potential move for Kylian Mbappé or Haaland, whilst not covering the cracks elsewhere. Should the Frenchman remain in Paris and the Norwegian go elsewhere, what then? The club would have waited three to four years to replace Ronaldo, just to end up not replacing him at all, and weakening themselves elsewhere!

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Ultimately, sure, Zidane is not utilising what he has to the best degree. But he also doesn’t have the best options available to him. Responsibility for this needs to be pointed in the right direction, the Frenchman isn’t the sole cause of the issue – that is a byproduct of the lack of action from those higher up to fix the necessary issues. Until Real begin to plan better and plan for now, they will continue to slip.