In a star-studded team like Real Madrid, it gets really difficult to manage the egos, competitiveness, and guts to make bold decisions. Managers of the stature of Carlo Ancelotti or Jose Mourinho could not cope with it, but Zidane seems to have that authority over players.
He has rested Cristiano Ronaldo for eight La Liga games, despite the Portuguese talisman being fit for most of the season. The rest meant that Ronaldo could go all guns blazing in the business end of the season, and he did. His decision to give Isco a nod ahead of Gareth Bale in the final speaks volume of his resolute tactics.
When Zidane chipped in a cheeky Panenka penalty in the final of 2006 World Cup, the World got to know he is nothing less than a cyborg. 11 years down the line he has shown the same composure, and this time as a manager.
He does not deter from making bold decisions, but when needed he knows when to hold the game and when to attack. The games against Villareal and Las Palmas were Real was heading for imminent defeat, Zidane’s decision to still field Casemiro and throw in Morata at the expense of Benzema might seem baffling, but the decision had worked wonders. He chooses not to go all guns blazing, and his belief in the team helps him take a patient tactics even in the worst situations.
Moulding the next generation
Real Madrid has always been accused of relying on Galacticos rather than homegrown talents. The theory of Cartera over Cantera (wallet before youth) that came into existence after Florentino Perez’s era now seems to be changing.
The likes of Lucas Vazquez, Nacho, Marco Asensio, Kiko Casilla, Mateo Kovacic, and Dani Carvajal have shown that they have more than enough to replace the mighty Galacticos. Zidane’s belief in Asensio and Nacho has shown that he does not believe in the price tag, but the performances. The dependence on Cristiano Ronaldo or Sergio Ramos, Modric, and Kroos is starting to wane away, and that is a brilliant sign for the future. Zidane is the perfect man to lead the next generation of Real Madrid stars.
17 months in his debut managerial role, Zidane has grown leaps and bounds. Real Madrid during the Mourinho era depended heavily on precise counter attacking. Zidane has bettered that with his three-man midfield formation that allows little space between the defence. Also, midfield for opponents to exploit results in stifling and breaking down of opposition gameplay.
He has allowed the full backs to maraud down the flanks while asking Modric and Casemiro to narrow down the passing lanes once they lose possession. This counter pressing helped Real topple Juventus easily in the Champions League final. His decision to let Isco play in behind Ronaldo and Benzema has meant that Real can now attack from both flanks as well from the centre of the pitch. Isco’s ability to roam has meant that Modric and Kroos can decrease their shift of tracking back time to time.
This is where Real has managed to be the best club in the season. Blessed with potentially the best squad in the World, Zidane has made use of them perfectly. Even the out of favour James Rodriguez almost proved to be decisive when he netted the equalising goal against Barcelona.
Zidane has time to time made the best substitutions. His decision to field Asensio in place of Benzema to run at the tiring legs of opposition has worked wonders in many matches. He uses Kovacic as a holding midfielder resting Casemiro in relatively easier games, and the Croat has done an amazing job. To deploy Nacho when needed to give defensive solidarity or Morata to pop up with late goals, Zidane has managed the team with incomparable efficacy.