When Real Madrid appointed Rafa Benitez as head coach, I was afraid that we would head another 12 disastrous years without Champions League trophy but then Zidane came in.
Let’s draw the moment from the beginning, Real Madrid decided to sack Carlo Ancelotti because his failure to present the League title (after winning La Decima in previous season) then Florentino Perez (Real Madrid president) announced the appointment of Rafa Benitez – which was protested by so many Madridistas around the world. Not even the fans doubted him, but also the players. Everything was good in the beginning, top of the table in league and some notable clean sheets but then the disaster started. Lost in clasico against Barcelona in Santiago Bernabeu by 4 goals to 0, Copa del Rey elimination because Rafa didn’t know Denis Cherysev was ineligible to play. Rafa finally was sacked on 4 January 2016. I called this as “New Year present to all Madridistas.”
Not really sure all players were happy, some rumours said that Gareth Bale was not but it happened. The replacement was a bit far from ideal. It’s not a secret anymore that I have been big fan of Jose Mourinho and hoped once again he returned to Madrid – he was sacked by Chelsea before Christmas and didn’t have job at that time. Perez decided to call Zinedine Zidane, won the Champions League back in 2002 and 2014 as Real Madrid player and Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant. At that time, the Frenchman was Real Madrid B (Real Madrid Castilla) head coach.
It was a bit gambling for Real Madrid, Zidane had no experience in senior level but I believe gambling is a solution for all because we were in behind Barca and Atletico in league, Champions League would be started again in a month so he would have plenty enough time to build his own foundation – hopefully.
The result was seen in the beginning of April. No one expected Real Madrid would win at clasico against Barcelona in Camp Nou. Zidane showed to people around the world that his Real Madrid could. His team also cut the gap from 10 points behind into 1 point only and forced the league title race decided in the very last game of season, although in the end Barca won it. In the Champions League the final ticket had been won by winning against Manchester City in semifinal and would face Atletico Madrid – the same opponent like two years ago when Zidane was coach assistant.
In the final match in San Siro last night, the game was so close between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Taking the lead by Sergio Ramos header then Atletico hit back by a goal from a substitute player, Yannick Carrasco. The game continued to 30 minutes of extra time but no additional goals so it had to go on penalty shoot out to decide the 2016 King of Europe.
Well, as we all already know it, Real Madrid wins by 5-3 as Juanfran from Atletico failed to score from penalty spot. It’s not an ideal way to close the season from them, after a spectacular season especially in Champions League, but as well said by the English commentator last night, “football can be cruel sometimes”. A friend of mine reminded me about Hector Cuper and his curse in European competition, “Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid head coach) was similar like him, maybe Cuper smiled at him now.” I don’t know if it’s coincidentally fact but Simeone and Cuper are from Argentina, they played in their second UEFA Champions League final and lost twice, the second final was played in Giuseppe Meazza/San Siro stadium in Milan, and lost by penalty shoot out.
Whatever it is, Atletico players and fans should not be upset at all, Simeone came and started to build the team from scratch so of course it’s a big leap to reach the final of biggest club competition in Europe and the world, although lost in penalty shoot out again, it’s not easy at all, it’s about lottery and luck.
And for Zidane and Real Madrid, what we have achieved this season is unbelieveable at all, considering how bad Real Madrid before ZZ came. With this achievement, I can say now that my disappointing about Jose Mourinho news (to coach Manchester United next season and that club has been long life opponent for me) is totally forgotten. Why should I think about JM while Real Madrid have a Zinedine Zidane?
The next task, I believe ZZ knows, to present League trophy which only won once in the last 8 years and to reign again as European king, duodecima or the twelfth one.
Winning the Champions League and reigning as European king after such a bad season, only Real Madrid can do it – remember the 2000 season after sacking John Toshack and replaced him with Vicente del Bosque and finished the season in 5th position.
Hala Madrid y Nada Mas!
NB: all photos credit to Diario AS (www.as.com).