Student writer Andrew Noland discusses the problems in the Real Madrid Football Club.
What has happened to Real Madrid’s reign over the soccer world? Dropping games isn’t the issue: Real Madrid went on a long losing streak that nearly cost Zinedine Zidane his job last season, right before they won the Champions League for a third time in a row. Zidane leaving in June can’t be the source of the issue — he barely coached. Real Madrid has the talent to retain their hegemony, but the paradox remains.
Since 2009, a superstar by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo, along with Lionel Messi, has played a seesaw game for the title of Greatest of All Time. Now, that anchor for Madrid has disappeared, reemerging in Turin to decline in Italy’s most dominant soccer organization.
To Real President Florentino Perez, it looked like the offseason gamble was a victory. That was until he realized his team wasn’t winning. Real have settled into sixth place, lowly for their standards, and find themselves glaring enviously at their Catalonian rivals at the top of the table once again.
It may seem ridiculous to say that Real Madrid lacks a definitive superstar with talents like Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Thibaut Courtois, Marcelo and Gareth Bale in their lineup, but, when among the best teams in Europe, one must shine brighter. None have risen to the challenge.
Lopetegui’s firing, while potentially a boon in the short run, lacks meaning when the heart of the issue remains the loss of Ronaldo. Vinicius Junior, the wunderkind sensation from Brazil, shows promise, but he’s no Mbappe. Gareth Bale is more often injured than not, and he cannot be relied on as a consistent star. Benzema served as nothing more than a facilitator for Ronaldo’s best highlights, and it appears he cannot overcome that role in a post-Cristiano Madrid.
Real Madrid needs to put aside their dreams of a new stadium to invest the money into the next Galactico. Neymar appears to be their best shot, but he has significantly deteriorated in the shadow of the 2018 World Cup Best Young Player. Perez will need to pry Mbappe from Tuchel’s cold, dead hands. Eden Hazard has hinted at a move to the Spanish capital, but his play at Chelsea will likely lead to a lucrative contract extension. Harry Kane and Dele Alli have been hinted as a combo package to the Bernabeu, but the likelihood that Tottenham would let them both go without the transfer fees breaking over half-a-billion dollars is low.
Mohamed Salah has dropped off Madrid’s radar during the Egyptian’s summer and fall slump, but his recent performances have started to remind us of his historic last season. The American prodigy currently stationed in Dortmund remains surrounded by rumors of a move to Real Madrid, but Pulisic is more likely to head to England or Bayern than Spain. Solari could bank Leroy Sane, but the German currently playing for Manchester City would need to ascend to a level unseen from him thus far.
Real Madrid needs a lodestar to hinge their hopes upon, and they need to find him quick. It doesn’t appear they will find that superstar internally, and a new coach can go a long way to discerning that talent. Whether interim coach Solari has that required scouting and tactical mind remains to be seen. However, if they want to escape their current rut, they will need to go back to the drawing board and discover an identity.