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Between 2014 and 2020, Real Madrid managed to win two La Ligas, four Champions Leagues, and a solitary Copa del Rey. First under the keen supervision of Carlo Ancelotti and then Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid climbed to the summit, looking down upon all mortal European powerhouses.
The ‘threepeat’ of Champions League triumphs between 2016 and 2018 would always be etched in our memories, and deservedly so. Yet, it can hardly be dubbed as Real Madrid’s greatest challenge in their illustrious history.
Since the bitter end of Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid dream in 2013, the club have gone through several managerial changes. First came Carlo Ancelotti in 2013. He sorted out the mess Mourinho had made and led the squad to ‘La Decima.’
A barren season followed, and Rafa Benitez was tasked to return Real Madrid to winning ways. He was deemed unfit after half a season and made way for Zinedine Zidane — Real Madrid’s knight in shining armour.
He led the club to three successive Champions League triumphs and a La Liga title before taking a surprise sabbatical in 2018. Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari tried to fill in his enormous boots, but both of them were sacked within months.
Zidane, once again, stepped up to the plate and restored the winning mentality, leading the club to their 34th La Liga title last season.
Real Madrid’s ageing trio
Over the last six years, Real Madrid have only suffered two grand personnel losses. Xabi Alonso’s move to Bayern Munich in 2014 and Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2018. Los Blancos failed to fill the gaps left by their stars and suffered two trophyless seasons — 2014/15 and 2018/19.
Fortunately, they could always fall back upon the likes of Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, and Karim Benzema. They could always count on their brilliance to return to the summit. Now, with all three stars sitting on the wrong side of 30, Real Madrid must start planning for the inevitable; figure out a way to stay afloat even when the stars depart.
Luka Modric, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2018, is the oldest of the trio and is likely to be the first one to depart. Even at 35, Modric regularly demonstrates his endless stamina, creativity, and impact from the middle of the pitch.
This season, he has been one of Real Madrid’s standout performers alongside Thibaut Courtois, and it’s become almost impossible to image Los Blancos without the Croat.
He doesn’t have a like-for-like replacement sadly, but Martin Odegaard is expected to fill in for the legendary number 10. Eduardo Camavinga is also in contention to be on Real Madrid’s books, but the French youngster is primarily dubbed to be Casemiro’s understudy.
Sergio Ramos, 34, is another ageing, invaluable member of the Real Madrid glitterati. Not only is he the unabashed, fearless leader of the most demanding club on the planet, but he also happens to be one of the best defenders around.
No Madridista on the planet would like to imagine their club without the great Spaniard, but, in 2020, we can’t help but start planning for the future.
Real Madrid, so far, have not gone after the likes of Virgil van Dijk or Matthijs de Ligt. So, we believe they are hoping to see something special from Raphael Varane and Eder Militao.
Karim Benzema has been the sole protagonist of Real Madrid’s attack since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. He still isn’t the most clinical forward around, but he always manages to come through for his club when the going gets tough.
Zinedine Zidane’s endless confidence in the player is likely to pay dividends a couple more years, but the 32-year-old cannot be a part of Real Madrid’s vision for the future.
Luka Jovic, of course, is the obvious choice to take the mantle off Benzema, but the Serbian is yet to find his footing in the Spanish capital. Dortmund star, Erling Haaland, and Paris Saint-Germain superstar, Kylian Mbappe, are believed to be at the top of Real Madrid’s wishlist and could offer a sense of tranquility in the post-Benzema era.
A change is on the horizon, and it would take immense quality and investment from Real Madrid to survive it. Zinedine Zidane, for the first time ever, would have to oversee a new era of football at the club, and he must handle the situation with impeccable precision and utmost respect.