Back to the drawing board for Santiago Solari in El Clasico
Background photo: Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0
Real Madrid suffered their second Clasico defeat to Barcelona in three days. The 3-0 pasting in midweek cost them a shot at the Copa del Rey. The weekend's one-goal affair showed improvement but forfeited any realistic hope for recapturing La Liga. The Champions League remains a possibility but the capital club must undergo a rethink in its strategy to surpass their arch rivals.
Los Blancos flashed brilliance now and then in the two matches but it was Barca who burned steadily. Until Julen Lopetegui replaced Zinedine Zidane, the Whites always brought their best to clashes with the Blaugrana. On the pitch, it isn't Cristiano Ronaldo's immense talent that leaves them so overmatched. It's the mentality he burned into teammates that is now extinguished. Real boasts talented internationals at every position. They couldn't cobble a goal against their mortal enemy to save their lives. Santiago Solari's livelihood is now in peril.
The Argentine is in the job for the simple reason that the club was desperate to replace Lopetegui. La Liga rules prohibit a caretaker from leading any club for more than a fortnight. With no suitable candidate available, sorry Antonio Conte, the club had to promote their B team boss. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez hoped Solari would prove to be more like Zidane than Lopetegui, both also former Real Madrid Castilla coaches. Unfortunately, he falls somewhere in the middle.
The squad wins fairly consistently under Solari, usually handling lesser opposition with ease. There has been the odd hiccup but not the wild inconsistency the squad showed under his predecessor. Occasional moments of rapture also occur. They held Barca to a one-goal draw in the Copa quarterfinal first leg at the Nou Camp. That was a false flag. Real aren't anywhere near the Cules' level.
Whether or not it begins with Solari, a rebuild is necessary. After five years atop Europe, the core members of the playing staff look tired. Marcelo is an impact sub. Gareth Bale contributes when healthy but is cursed by expectations he would blossom into a full-blown Ronaldo. Isco is under bench arrest. Karim Benzema's best form doesn't meet the minimum requirements for a Merengue centre-forward.
The youngsters? Vinicius Junior is a revelation. Sergio Reguilon is John the Baptist to the Brazilian's Jesus. Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio enjoy their moments. But none have the experience and maturity to carry this team to the heights at which it customarily resides.
The squad needs a boss both prepared to embrace the youth movement but also possessing the command and magnetism to lift them to greater heights. Said manager must be provided sufficient funds to sign three galacticos who will lead by example. Without recommending Zizou's return, the new Real Madrid boss must match his qualities.
Zidane's good fortune was to lead the previous generation at their peak while injecting a bit of new blood into the squad. Not a full-on transfusion. In both medicine and football, such a drastic approach takes time and there is no guarantee the body won't reject the wholesale change. The Frenchman departed perhaps knowing no signings were forthcoming.
Whatever they do, Real Madrid face a long journey back. The two defeats give them a losing record against Barcelona for the first time in 87 years. Try telling a Madrileno to be patient. Tranquilo, mi culo.