Real Madrid: The problem has never been more clear

Florentino Perez of Real Madrid (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
Florentino Perez of Real Madrid (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid were emphatically knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge. They went down without a whimper. If it weren’t for two Karim Benzema efforts that were well-saved by Edouard Mendy, Los Blancos would have had precisely zero to show for their attacking “efforts”. Meanwhile, Chelsea could have easily won by four goals.

It was an embarrassing display from a team that has won more Champions League than any other and who prides itself on being the best in Europe. But Real Madrid were anything but the best. In truth, there is nothing about this squad that suggests they were the best team in Europe. Most Madridistas consider their progress in the Champions League to be a coaching miracle on Zinedine Zidane’s part, even as they are critical of his lineup selection in the match itself.

There are always going to be a few uninformed individuals who take to social media to yell about Zidane. These are the same people who think that because they have mastered FIFA’s semi-pro mode, they are well on their way to a UEFA coaching license.

The reality is that Zidane has done a damn fine job in the 2020-2021 season. And the harsher reality is that Real Madrid have serious problems.

Their first issue is the most obvious and most ever-present. They do not have an attack remotely deserving of winning the Champions League. Benzema remains one of the world’s best, but he is carrying a unit that has nothing else going for it. Let’s spare the niceties, because this is Real Madrid we are talking about. The standards are higher, and we need to take off our “rah rah” supportive fan hats for a second.

Real Madrid know the problem, but can they afford the solution?

Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes are promising players. They are not ready to be starters for a Champions League winning squad.

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Eden Hazard is not playing at a high enough level and has not been remotely close to the level of a star player.

Marco Asensio is not a starting-caliber player for Real Madrid. He is a great role player. He is not a great starter, and you HAVE to be great to win the Champions League.

There are other issues in the squad besides the attack. Real Madrid have depth questions at both fullback positions. Marcelo and Alvaro Odriozola are not good enough to be important backups. The same goes for Mariano Diaz at striker, though Los Blancos at least have Luka Jovic on the books. (That said, who really knows what the hell is going to happen to him at this point?)

Real Madrid came into this season with no signings. Their only “signings” were loanee Martin Odegaard and youth prospects Marvin Park, Sergio Arribas, and Antonio Blanco.

Yet they are still in a position to potentially win La Liga. So they are not a bad team for all of their warts. In fact, they are a very good football team, and their matches against Chelsea were their only poor performances in big games.

However, Real are not great. They have not been great for years. And the common denominator is a failure to rebuild the attack since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. They have not spent money wisely, nor have they taken the right approach to integrated and developing the young talent they have invested in.

Next. The 3 worst signings of the Zidane era. dark

Florentino Perez sees the flaws clearly laid out in front of him. And with the rich getting richer – Manchester City and Chelsea, to be precise – the pandemic-hit Merengues have their work cut out for them this summer when it comes to filling the priciest need in football that just happens to be the one thing holding them back from being all they can be.

And I can state this ever-pressing, glaring need in one word. Doing so is reductive, but the law of parsimony dictates it is also the true answer.