Zinedine Zidane Returns To Real Madrid

Thank You! Fans Tell Zidane After Quitting Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane holds the Champions League trophy after guiding Real Madrid to the title for the third straight season at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, on May 26, 2018. PHOTO: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Zinedine Zidane has made a sensational return as coach of Real Madrid after Santiago Solari’s sacking was finally confirmed on Monday.

Zidane has been given a contract until June 2022, just nine months after he resigned at the end of last season, having led Madrid to an historic third consecutive Champions League triumph.

Solari’s dismissal was expected after three consecutive home defeats – to Barcelona, twice, and Ajax – deemed Madrid’s season all-but over before the middle of March.

But Zidane coming back, with only 11 games left in La Liga and almost nothing to play for, is a surprise, particularly after he left on the incredible high of yet another European triumph.

“Real Madrid’s board has decided to terminate Santiago Solari’s contract as coach of the first team,” read an official statement on Monday.

“Real Madrid appreciates the work done by Santiago Solari and the commitment and loyalty he has always shown to this club.

“The board has also agreed to the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as the new coach of Real Madrid with immediate effect for the remainder of the season and the next three, until June 30, 2022.”

Like Solari, Zidane had been in charge of Real Madrid’s reserve side, Castilla, when he was promoted in January 2016. Madrid finished second that year before going on to win La Liga in Zidane’s first full season in charge.

They were unable to repeat the feat last term and finished 17 points behind Barcelona but domestic disappointment was almost forgotten as Zidane again oversaw success in Europe, with a victory over Liverpool in the final in Kiev.

Immensely popular with most of the players, Zidane’s appointment will almost certainly lift morale in the dressing room, following a week in which captain Sergio Ramos has reportedly argued with club president Florentino Perez and been involved in a training ground spat with Marcelo.

Gareth Bale was one of the few to suffer during Zidane’s previous spell in charge, with the pair barely on speaking terms in the run-up to the Champions League final. Bale’s future now appears in serious doubt unless their relationship can be quickly repaired.

The Welshman might have left last summer had Zidane stayed but instead it was Cristiano Ronaldo that departed and the Frenchman now takes over a team missing the Portugese’s goals and in urgent need of reform.

Despite Madrid’s dominance in the Champions League, there is ground to make up in La Liga, where Barcelona are on course to seal their eighth league title in 11 years.

Madrid sit 12 points adrift of Barca in the table despite a 4-1 victory over Real Valladolid on Sunday, which proved to be Solari’s final game in charge.

Solari was handed a contract until 2021 after overseeing an improvement following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui in November.

But familiar problems, including a lack of goals and a leaky defence, resurfaced in February as a defeat at home to Girona was quickly followed by losses to Barcelona in the league and cup, and humiliation by Ajax in the last 16 of the Champions League.

AFP

Madrid Failure Puts Solari Under Fire And Faith In Youth To The Test

Real Madrid’s Argentinian coach Santiago Solari GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Santiago Solari said he would not give up as coach of Real Madrid but the decision will probably not be his to make.

Zinedine Zidane earned the right to decide himself and chose to leave last summer.

“It would have been difficult for me to win again next year,” Zidane said in May.

“There have been good times but also difficult times. I do not forget that. I want to end with Real Madrid when everything is going well.”

Ten months on, Zidane’s exit speech feels like a warning.

Madrid’s season is up in smoke after seven days in which they were eliminated from the Copa del Rey, deemed irrelevant in La Liga and humiliated in the Champions League.

“I did not come to the club in such a difficult time to give up,” said Solari, after a 4-1 defeat to Ajax on Wednesday sent his side out in the last 16.

READ ALSO: Ajax Knock Shambolic Real Madrid Out Of Champions League

In the league and cup, they were proven to be clearly worse than Barcelona, their greatest rivals, and in Europe, inferior to Ajax, the club that are supposed to supply the elite not outplay them in their own back yard.

Three defeats, all of them in their own stadium, the last in the competition Madrid had begun to feel was their own after three consecutive triumphs and four in five years.

“Here lies a team that made history,” read the front page of Marca on Wednesday. “End of an era,” said Diario Sport. “The disaster is huge,” wrote Mundo Deportivo.

Solari had overseen a period of progress since taking over from Julen Lopetegui in November but the decline has been quick and familiar. Early improvement gave way to a lack of goals, which slowly sapped belief. Mediocre opponents took advantage and better ones ran riot.

‘Bigger problems to fix’

The club’s president Florentino Perez must now decide if Solari is worth keeping until the summer, although it is hard to see what would be gained by sacking him when there is nothing left to be gained from the season.

A new coach, with the same squad, would only surrender the feeling of freshness while for Perez, there might also be merit in waiting until June when more candidates could become available.

Yet he must be aware now of what Zidane was indicating, the sense that there are bigger problems to fix than the coach.

A Marca poll on Tuesday night asked fans who they thought was to blame, with 79 per cent answering either ‘everyone’ or ‘the board’ and only 7 per cent picking ‘Solari and Lopetegui’.

After years of under-investment, Madrid’s spine is creaking. Luka Modric is 33, Sergio Ramos 32, Toni Kroos 29 and Karim Benzema 31. Age is one thing but motivation is another. Success is hard to replicate.

Cristiano Ronaldo sought a new challenge with Juventus but was not replaced, either by a single star or two or three impact players that could collectively help bridge the gap. Mariano Diaz, signed last minute from Lyon, was not even on the bench on Wednesday.

Instead of marquee arrivals, the last of whom was James Rodriguez in 2014, Perez has shifted focus towards youth, with the likes of Vinicius Junior, Alvaro Odriozola, Sergio Reguilon, Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente all showing varying degrees of promise. Vinicius has been a revelation.

The problem is not that those players have failed to deliver but that perhaps they need a blend of experience to help bring them through. A summer spending spree might be tempting but could also undo all the good work done with a talented group.

If Solari cannot make a convincing enough case – and it is difficult to see how he can – in the 12 league games left, the choice of his successor will be revealing as to whether Perez’s faith in youth remains intact.

Madrid faces a trip to Real Valladolid on Sunday and all that is left is to overtake Atletico Madrid, who are five points ahead and reduce a 12-point gap on Barcelona, who are closing in on a seventh league title in 10 seasons. For all Madrid’s success in Europe, that domestic drought speaks volumes.

“We have a young team with room for improvement,” Dani Carvajal said. “It is clear the season is over but we will keep working in the league because that’s what we have to do, we have to be professional. That’s just how it is.”

AFP

Solari Confirmed As Real Madrid Coach Until 2021

In this file photo taken on November 06, 2018 Real Madrid’s Argentinian coach Santiago Solari addresses a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Champions League group G football match Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid in Plzen, 
Michal CIZEK / AFP

 

Santiago Solari on Tuesday was confirmed as Real Madrid coach until 2021 following his successful spell in charge as caretaker boss of the European champions.

“Real Madrid’s board of directors met today and decided to name Santiago Solari as first team coach until June 30, 2021,” the club announced in a statement.

Solari’s anointment as sacked Julen Lopetegui’s permanent successor comes after wins in his first four matches.

Solari Leads Real Madrid To Impressive Outing In Copa Del Rey

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (L) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the Spanish King’s Cup (Copa del Rey) football match between UD Melilla and Real Madrid CF at the Alvarez Claro municipal stadium in the autonomous city of Melilla on October 31, 2018. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

Santiago Solari’s reign as interim Real Madrid coach got off to an encouraging start on Wednesday as the European champions made light of third-tier hosts Melilla in the Copa del Rey.

Goals from Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, Alvaro Odriozola and Cristo Gonzalez earned the 19-time champions a 4-0 win on their first visit to this Spanish enclave on the north African coast.

Solari was promoted from boss of Real’s Castilla B team on Monday after the sacking of Julen Lopetegui only 139 days after his appointment.

Sunday’s 5-1 Clasico humbling by Barcelona proved the last straw for Real president Florentino Perez, who will nevertheless have been warmed by the team’s display in this last 32 first leg clash.

Melilla may not be Barca or Manchester City but there was plenty to like about Real’s performance, not least the bright debut of highly-touted Brazilian teenager Vinicius Junior.

After catching the eye in Solari’s Castilla side the 18-year-old Flamengo recruit was handed his first team starting debut, and was one of Real’s best players.

His superb pass set up Asensio for Real’s second on the stroke of half-time, after Benzema playing as a central striker had tapped in Odriozola’s assist from close range on 28 minutes.

Real Madrid’s Argentinian coach Santiago Solari (L) stands on the sideline during the game.
JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

At the restart Solari made two changes, introducing Nacho for Sergio Ramos with Benzema replaced by Federico Valverde.

Melilla began the second period brightly, as they had done the first, proving more of a threat to their well-heeled but hurting visitors.

Against the run of play only a fine point-blank save from Melilla keeper Dani Barrio denied Dani Ceballos on the hour.

Then Vicinius almost marked his first team arrival with a goal, his shot thudding off the crossbar.

Odriozola bagged his first goal for Real, firing into an empty net after good work from Vicinius and Reguillo before substitute Gonzalez headed home.

Solari said on Tuesday he was open to becoming Real coach on a long-term basis, and as a statement of intent, he could not have asked for much more from his first game in charge.

The Argentinian, who spent five years playing for Madrid between 2000 and 2005, is likely to remain in post for Real’s La Liga game at home to Real Valladolid on Saturday and could stay on for next week’s trip to Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.

Madrid have sounded out former Chelsea and Juventus coach Antonio Conte but initial talks have reportedly not gone smoothly. Belgium boss Roberto Martinez and the club’s former midfielder Guti have also been linked.

But if Solari continues to impress he may well find himself signing a full time contract as he seeks to emulate another former Castilla coach who went on to glorious innings as Real boss — Zinedine Zidane.

Later Wednesday Barcelona are at second division Leonesa.

AFP

Solari – Five Things About Real Madrid’s New Coach

Solari - Five Things About Real Madrid's New Coach
Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Santiago Solari has been put in temporary charge of Real Madrid after Julen Lopetegui was sacked on Monday. 

Solari was the coach of Madrid’s B team, Castilla, and is now expected to take Madrid for their Copa del Rey game against Melilla on Wednesday.

Here, AFP Sport takes a closer at the Argentinian:

Zidane’s teammate at Real

Santiago Hernan Solari played five seasons at Real (2000-2005) including four alongside Zidane, who arrived in 2001, during the ‘Galactico’ era. He began the move that resulted in Zidane scoring one of his finest goals, the famous volley against Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final. In total, Solari played 167 games and scored 16 goals for the club.

Also played for Atletico

Born in Rosario, Argentina, Solari made his name at River Plate, winning the Libertadores Cup in 1996. In 1999 he crossed the Atlantic to join Atletico Madrid. The midfielder tasted the disappointment of being relegated to the second division before Real activated his release clause to sign him in 2000.

From footballing stock

Santiago’s father, Eduardo Solari, was a professional player in Argentina while his brothers David and Esteban also had a career in football, as did his cousin Augusto. His uncle, Jorge Solari, played in Mexico and was nicknamed “El Indio”, which gave Santiago Solari his own nickname of “El Indiesito”, the Little Indian.

Named “sexiest player” of 2002

In 2002, Solari received another trophy: the sexiest player of the year, which was presented to him by the subscribers of the Spanish channel Canal +. “I thank the people who voted for me, but I’m sure it’s rigged,” he said. “We’ll see if I’m offered another career in the film industry when I leave.”

Coaching career started at Real

Solari chose to stay in football after the end of his playing career. He coached Real Madrid’s junior teams, before taking the reins of Castilla, the club’s B team, in the summer of 2016. They finished 11th and eighth in Segunda B, the Spanish third tier, during his two completed seasons in charge.

AFP