Why Arsene Wenger is the perfect manager for Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane’s decision to vacate the helm at Real Madrid came as a surprise. Not that the Frenchman was under pressure at the Santiago Bernabeu. In fact, no one could recall the Merengues’ early La Liga struggles. Their Champions League triumph overshadowed their flaws in the Spanish top flight. Another season was guaranteed for Zidane, but he has made his decision to leave.
With Zidane gone, the managerial seat can't remain empty too long. The club need a manager who can fill the void. Though the Merengues have already been linked with many top managers, one they chased in the past seems the best pick.
Real Madrid are an immense club with commensurate egos on and off the pitch. The squad needs an excellent drillmaster who can handle accomplished players. Not all can. Recall Unai Emery's first spell at Paris Saint-Germain.
However, among the few managers with the ability to communicate with top stars while also developing younger ones, Arsene Wenger stands out. The French tactician did both during his two decades at Arsenal.
Though his final seasons were underwhelming, he remains a top manager. Arsenal's recent sub-par displays can be blamed more on the board and the quality of players at Wenger's disposal. The Arsenal board always showed reluctance to fund transfers.
Wenger's glistening achievements at Arsenal came when the club was more ambitious. The Gunners had Thierry Henry, Gilberto Silva, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. Wenger played the decisive role in moulding them all into top-class athletes. Nor did he have problems with them on the pitch when they matured.
The Emirates construction project ushered in an era of austerity that prompted his best to leave for bigger paydays and squads willing to invest in chasing silverware. Both Henry and Fabregas left for Barcelona, Van Persie for United. Nevertheless, they responded to his tutoring on the training ground and come matchdays.
Arsenal's squad is now filled with average players who can and have made the best manager look cheap and helpless. Managers aren't gods or magicians. They need good players who can implement their tactics brilliantly. That has been the main secret behind Pep Guardiola’s brilliant spell at Manchester City.
Wenger faced a different scenario entirely. The veterans at his disposal were largely castoffs on the decline. If Petr Cech wasn't making silly mistakes, the defenders were letting him down. Admittedly, Wenger bore some responsibility. He stayed with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker too long. Shkodran Mustafi was his signing.
At the same time, the board seemed unwilling to spend on more than one premium player per season. Mesut Ozil in 2013, Alexis Sanchez the next summer, Granit Xhaka two years after that. This season, they swooped for Alexandre Lacazette in the summer, then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the winter, but it was too little too late and did not address the club's true need.
The situation will be different at Real Madrid. The Merengues have never been reluctant when it comes to dipping their hand into the till. Nor will Wenger have final say over all transfer activity. As befits a man who has said he doesn't desire another major project, the Gunners architect will simply be the coach.
In that role, Wenger will draw upon a vast pool of world-class talent already in-house. Cristiano Ronaldo. Karim Benzema. Gareth Bale. Toni Kroos. Luka Modric. Sergio Ramos. Isco. He will do greater things with Real Madrid.
The Real Madrid board already know this. Club president Florentino Perez was keen to hire Wenger but rejected on three previous occasions. In this instance, the fourth time will pay for all.
The managerial hot seat is empty at the Santiago Bernabeu, Wenger is ready and has all it takes to be a success. What else do Real need?