Real Madrid: A case of the falling Champions?
The most successful football club in Europe and one of the most successful football clubs in the world, Real Madrid, is undergoing a shocker of a season in 2018. After losing the manager, who guided them to three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles, and the player who scored goals for fun, Real Madrid C.F. has seemed to be on a falling spree.
So much so that they find themselves languishing mid-table in their domestic league, the LaLiga, but more importantly find themselves drastically lacking in quality as compared to their immediate rivals, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Slow start to a season is something that is associated with Real Madrid, but this season it has been taken to an all different level. They went 450 minutes without scoring a goal, against teams such as Alaves, CSKA Moscow, Levante. These are the teams that Real Madrid used to dispatch in their sleep till this season. Sudden goal drought along with the lack of form of their quality players, has brought Real Madrid into a state of absolute crisis.
The result against their arch-rivals Barcelona, playing without their star player Lionel Messi, prompted the Real Madrid team management to bring a change in the management of the team, leading Florentino Perez to fire Julien Lopetegui. The game against Barcelona exposed all areas of Real Madrid football, and Barcelona showed absolutely no mercy and peppered in 5 goals, much to the chagrin of Real Madrid.
The team just did not seem to play with any heart in that game and surrendered completely after going a couple of goals down, something which one can never associate with Real Madrid C.F.
Much was being said at the start of the season by Julien Lopetegui and the Real Madrid players, that the departures of Ronaldo and Zidane are going to have no bearing on Real Madrid's style of play and their results. Gareth Bale pompously told reporters that Real Madrid have actually become a better side after Cristiano Ronaldo's exit. Lopetegui had also claimed that he had no doubt Real Madrid are going to be very competitive and will go on winning titles. He, however, could not reciprocate his claims with the performances of Real Madrid and found himself out of favour in just 5 months into his job.
Players such as Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema promised a lot but have delivered no major performance this season so far. In the absence of a prolific goalscorer like Cristiano Ronaldo, the mantle of scoring goals was supposed to be taken up by these three players. Their enormous talent has gone in thin air, due to the woeful form that they find themselves in.
They just have not been able to replicate the form of Cristiano Ronaldo at this club, disappointing the Real supporters all over the world. Let alone Ronaldo's form, they haven't been able to replicate their own form from the last couple of seasons. This has been the major issue in Real Madrid finding themselves in this crisis situation.
The change in management seemed to bring some good fortune to Real Madrid, displaying it with their 4 consecutive victories in all competitions. Santiago Solari was just about beginning to settle in his new role as the head coach when Real Madrid slumped to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Eibar. The summer signings of Real Madrid cost more than the entire Eibar squad, which makes the defeat a very tough pill to swallow for the Real Madrid fans.
The summer transfers of Real Madrid were pretty low-key this season as per their own standards. The departure of Ronaldo promised the arrival of a big Galactico at the Santiago Bernabeu, but the team management decided to back the current players and not bring any big name to the Madrid ranks. Names such as Neymar, Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappe were doing the rounds but none seemed to attract Florentino Perez and he believed the likes of Gareth Bale, Isco, Benzema and Modric will provide enough stability to Real Madrid.
The FIFA Player of the year, UEFA Player of the year and the Ballon d'Or hot favourite of the year, Luka Modric looks like a pale shadow of the player he was just a few months ago, wherein he guided his national team, Croatia, to the World Cup final. Modric and Kroos, the deadly midfield duo, who played a pivotal role in the hat-trick of Champions league win for Real Madrid, seem to be in a lost world and look completely out of place this season.
The departure of Zidane has affected the Real Madrid midfield the most and none of the following managers seems to be getting the best out of either Modric or Kroos.
The revelation of Sergio Ramos being doped for the UEFA Champions League final of 2017 has rubbed salt on the wounds of Real Madrid. Already unable to deal with the disastrous start to the season, they find their captain in the midst of a narcotic storm.
Though the allegations have been vehemently denied by Sergio Ramos and Real Madrid, this episode is going to make it even more difficult for Real Madrid to find their feet as the ocean gets deeper.
Real Madrid need a change in the attitude the most, followed by a Galactico signing, as none of the current players evokes a sense of turning the season around for Real Madrid. The stature of the club warrants a Champions League spot at least, and without some dramatic turnaround, even that seems a far-fetched cry at the moment.
The talk of "Who needs Ronaldo" and such related arrogance from the team management and the supporters needs to change and they need to embrace the current situation, show some patience, and take the necessary actions to keep the sinking ship afloat.
The new manager, Santiago Solari, needs to be given some space for experimentation and most importantly needs the backing from both the board and the fans. The results may not be shown fast enough, but the freedom for the manager will enable him to operate calmly and without any pressure, in which the situation to produce the best will arise.
The new signings such as Thibaut Courtois, who are conceding goals at will, and Vinicius Junior, who seems a signing for the future, need backing to the hilt. Thibaut Courtois though needs to step up big time to keep his place in the side, otherwise, the wily Keylor Navas, who had a couple of great seasons will be back to claim his place in the starting XI.
The season can still be rectified by Real Madrid with the help of some small changes, changing the attitude primarily. They can still make it to later rounds of the Champions League and have the guns to make the top 4 for this season. The players too need to take the blame and show spirit and perform at a level higher than what they're currently dishing out.