Real Madrid won their 38th consecutive match on Wednesday against Sevilla in the first leg of the Copa del Rey in Spain. A brace from James Rodriguez and a goal from Raphael Varane completed this routing. About a year ago, Madrid were crossing the second and third places on the Spanish La Liga table with FC Barcelona holding a comfortable lead with Atletico Madrid being the team that had the consistency to keep up with the league leaders.
Within a year Zinedine Zidane has been able to transform a team that was dominated and hammered by FC Barcelona in the El Clasico in November, 2015 to becoming UEFA Champions League winners and crowning off the year with the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup title. Few people believed in Zidane’s appointment and after a successful year and having a six point gap at the top of the table, would Zidane be able to win Madrid its first league title in five years and would he become the first manager and Madrid the first club to defend the UEFA Champions League title?
Many players have contributed to the rise of Zidane but most of the work must be attributed to him for being able to get the winning mentality back to the team. It is no surprise because he has something that conventional coaches rarely have.
Zidane Is the New Ancelotti of Modern Ex-Players Turned Manager
When Carlo Ancelotti assumed the reigns right from Juventus through Milan, he was a former player who had played numerous games and at the time won the UEFA Champions League formerly European Cup in 1989 and 1990. He understood the needs of the players and resonated with most of the formations that would best suit them.
Zidane knows about the need of an anchorman having played with Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele on an international level at France and the likes of Thomas Gravesen at Real Madrid. He knew about the importance of such players which has been debunked because of the modern tactic of football whereby every team wants to steal a part of FC Barcelona’s philosophy.
Zidane is a Madridista and knows all about how you play to win and needed an anchorman to be able to win the balls early for the teams counterattack to take effect.
He turned to Casemiro and dropped James Rodriguez to the displeasure of many but for the good of the team and Madrid has never looked back. Many people might wonder why and the answer is simple. James Rodriguez, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are all creative midfielders who are interested in contributing to attack rather than defense and deploying all three means that Madrid lacked strength in creative depth when the team needed a change in tactic going forward.
A win against FC Barcelona in the El Clasico followed in April 2016 and the works of Casemiro proved vital in cutting the supplies of particularly Andres Iniesta to the Messi-Suarez-Neymar attack.
In the UEFA Champions League final against local rivals Atletico de Madrid, Casemiro fought Gabi, Koke and Augusto Fernandez in midfield winning balls and cutting the attacking plays of Atletico and it helped take the game to penalties.
Zidane Needs James Rodriguez to Win La Liga For Real Madrid
It seems is James Rodriguez is finally staying at Real Madrid after given assurances after the Copa del Rey match against Sevilla and this comes as good news for Madrid as the team would have him alongside Kovacic to count on in the absence of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
James Rodriguez is a player who brings diversity to the game and no one can forget the contributions he made in the 2014 UEFA Super Cup and the El Clasico as well as leading the team to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2015.
Zidane has proven to be among the rare cases in which a successive footballer becomes a great football manager. No one knows when Real Madrid’s run is going to end but for a rookie coach to take up a team and manage this massive record within a year shows that the decision made by Club President Fiorentino Perez wasn’t out of the blue.
Real Madrid has a busy fixture in January and Zidane and his men would need a lot of dedication and determination to win all the matches and maintain the unbeaten run.
La Liga resumes on Friday, January 6 and Real Madrid hosts Granada on Saturday, January 7 at 4AM PST.