HomeFootballDecoding Zinedine Zidane's "black magic" at Real Madrid

Decoding Zinedine Zidane’s “black magic” at Real Madrid

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The whole history of Real Madrid is based on attractive, heart-racing and attacking football.

The Merengues have always had a talisman or two at their disposal — players capable of scoring for fun.

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Current Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane, has taken it upon himself to change that.

His team doesn’t prioritise flamboyance over efficiency. They know how to get the job done, by all means necessary. 

During Zinedine Zidane’s first stint as the manager of Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo was the squad’s unchallenged goal-scorer. Averaging over one goal a game, Ronaldo had already cemented in the warmth of the limelight.

And Zidane, recognising his squad’s flair for the spectacular, helped his team play an exhilarating brand of football.

In their La Liga winning campaign in 2016-17, Real Madrid managed to score a whopping 106 goals, conceding 41.

The fans were ecstatic, critics silenced — Zinedine Zidane had delivered Real Madrid’s first league title in five years. 

Following the departure of their record goalscorer in 2018, Los Blancos endured one of their worst ever campaigns.

Karim Benzema did manage to step it up a notch, but it wasn’t even enough to put pressure on Barcelona, let alone beating them.

Zinedine Zidane, who had just returned to the hot seat after a rather short sabbatical, needed to fix this problem.

And this season has been all about the Frenchman’s under-rated managerial vision. 

Stopping the bleeding

From ambitious full-backs to reluctant back-trackers — Real Madrid’s whole history has been about outscoring their opponents.

With Cristiano Ronaldo gone, Zinedine Zidane couldn’t afford the luxury of relying upon his old tactics.

He needed to think on his feet. And so he did. 

He recognised the lack of decisiveness in front of goal and came up with a way to maximise the team’s efforts.

With a flick of a switch, he made the team disciplined and dogged.

Everyone had to track back. Everyone had to fight for the ball. No free meals. 

Casemiro, who has been the team’s anchor from 2016, has once again emerged as one of the most important players.

The Brazilian central defensive midfield loves to rush forward, but not at the expense of stability.

He’s always the first man to fill in for Sergio Ramos whenever the Spaniard lets his heart take over.

His ability to cut passing lanes is second to none and is pivotal to Real Madrid’s unbelievable defensive record this season. 

Ferland Mendy wasn’t one of the flashiest signings in the summer of 2019. Everyone was eager to see the flamboyant Eden Hazard take charge of the left-wing.

Instead, Real Madrid fans have been treated with an outstanding full-back on the left side of the pitch, who, singlehandedly, has reduced the workload of his captain.

Yes, the 25-year-old isn’t as offensively gifted as Marcelo, but he more than makes up for it with his blistering pace and impressive decision making. 

Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos have been sitting at the heart of Real Madrid defence for a few years now, but they never combined as well as they have this season.

Both have been almost flawless since the first matchday, and Zinedine Zidane needs the pair to maintain their fine run until the end of the campaign.

Ramos, of course, has also pitched in with invaluable goals, but Varane’s interceptions and game-reading simply cannot be overlooked. 

Thibaut Courtois was heavily ridiculed following his disappointing debut campaign.

The custodian lacked confidence, was indecisive, and ended up getting jeered by Madridistas, time and again.

This season, the Belgian international is leading the race for the Zamora trophy with 17 clean sheets in 31 matches — an outstanding change of fortunes, to say the least. He has been one of the best goalkeepers — if not the best — in Europe this season and is now an outright favourite at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

The players we briefly discussed have been at the heart of Zinedine Zidane’s dogged Real Madrid, but they aren’t the only contributors. Dani Carvajal, Fede Valverde, Luka Modric, and Toni Kroos have been relentless.

The wingers — Gareth Bale, Rodrygo, Vinicius Jr, and even Eden Hazard — have always managed to track back and cover their markers. Karim Benzema, too, has regularly dropped deep to disrupt opposition attacks and kick-start counters. 

This season, Real Madrid have conceded 21 goals in 34 La Liga encounters — four fewer than crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid. With four games to go, Real Madrid need to protect their four-point lead at the top of the table, and they’d depend on their grit and determination to go over the line.

Zinedine Zidane is four games away from making history, four games away from realising Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous saying: “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.”

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