How would Barcelona play under Zinedine Zidane?
Zinedine Zidane remains one of the most important personalities for Real Madrid, both as a player and as a manager. His exploits as a player have been well documented, but it is his success as a manager that has drawn all eyes toward him in recent times and has linked him with big moves and clubs like Manchester United.
His triple jackpot at the UEFA Champions League is unprecedented, and most likely, might never be seen again in the future too. But how would things look if he had taken up the reigns for Real Madrid's eternal rivals, FC Barcelona?
Barcelona plays a certain style of football, something repetitive, which opposing defenses struggle against, despite knowing of. Barcelona likes to keep the ball, frustrate opponents, find a vulnerable area, and attack.
What Zidane primarily played at his tenure In charge at Real Madrid differed based on the availability of players. Consider 2 situations, one when Gareth Bale was fit, and one when the player faced long tenures on the sidelines.
When Bale was fit, Zidane primarily played a 4–3–3 formation, which provided him with a pacy defense since Varane played in place of Pepe.
When Bale was out, he played a diamond 4–4–2 where Isco replaced Bale and dropped back to complete the diamond. It consisted of a more dominating MF that fed in balls to Ronaldo and Benzema to finish.
In both scenarios, Zidane had great suppliers wide on the flanks, in the form of Daniel Carvajal and Marcelo. Barcelona has only Jordi Alba at present, as the right doesn't contribute much to the attacks.
So, what if he had taken up a job at Barcelona?
If Zizou hypothetically takes up Barca right now, he would play a 4–4–2 when Lionel Messi is rested, and a 4–3–3 when he plays.
Zidane has no specific style of football or tactics. He uses his oratory, motivational, confidence-boosting skills to get 120% out of his players.
Given this, you wouldn't see the traditional elegant Barcelona, but instead, a Barcelona that would make you ask, “Which version of the team will we be seeing today? Attacking or defensive? Sluggish or enthusiastic?” mainly because not all oppositions play with the same mindset.
Some think that offense is the best form or defense, while others crowd 11 players in their own D, happy to get away with a clean sheet.
Also, Zidane never usually assigned players positions as per his formation. He assigned the players in the positions they felt most comfortable at, to get most out of the team.
Given this, you could be all but sure that Coutinho would be neglected, given that right now, he has no position where his potential can be maximized (at least while Messi is on the pitch). Instead, there are other players who can provide more than Coutinho when placed where they like to be, who Zidane would prefer.
Additionally, everyone knows that the primary reason for the European dominance of Madrid was the exquisite man-management abilities of Zidane. Yes, Valverde is rotating off late, but there is a difference between rotating and rotating with balance.
Zidane knew how to rotate without reducing firepower, and he knew how to ignite the spark in the relatively new ones. If he was at Barca, you would definitely see the core players (Messi, Suarez, Busquets, Pique) rested more often, and enthusiastic youngsters replace them comfortably.
Valverde doesn't motivate the youngsters nor does give them the push they need. He does push them, but directly on the field.
Well, it wouldn't be a bad thing, but you can never expect a treble, and you can completely forget a sextuple under Zidane. The team philosophy would definitely change, but effectively rotated squads, much less fatigue, flourishing young talent is what you could expect.
As of now, Barcelona has a certain Ernesto Valverde. Let's see what he can produce.