Will Winning the Champions League Secure Zidane’s Job at Real Madrid?
Real Madrid welcomed Juventus to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday for the return leg of their quarter-final match in the Champions League. The defending champions had a foot already in the semifinal courtesy their 3-0 win over the Old Lady in Turin, featuring Cristiano Ronaldo's excellent overhead kick. In a week of ridiculous reversals, Juve fought their way back level before a Mehdi Benatia penalty on Lucas Vazquez in injury time wasted the effort. Ronaldo had the last word again, smashing home the spot kick. Real Madrid were still on course for a fourth final in five years.
Despite their dominance in Europe, the reverse has been the case for the Spanish giants domestically. Defeats against a handful of beatable opponents put them well behind the eight ball in La Liga and out of the Copa del Rey. Suffice it to say guiding the Merengues to consecutive Champions League crowns, the first coach to achieve that feat in the current format, has afforded Zinedine Zidane far more job security than most Real Madrid managers would ever expect.
Long before Roman Abramovich arrived at Chelsea, failure was not an option at the Santiago Bernabeu. Coaches knew coming in that results were a must. Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez have experienced the harsh reality at both clubs.
Despite their fine form in Europe, Madrid’s poor run in the league has continually put Zidane’s position under threat. The La Liga champions made a stuttering start to their title defence and were out of the title race when they lost El Clasico to Barcelona 3-0 at home before the holidays. Going into their match with Malaga tonight, they are 18 points behind the Cules. A result will lift them past Valencia into third. Zidane has long since admitted the chase is for second place. A win draws them within one of Atletico.
That said, the Real Madrid hierarchy isn't interested in competing for Barcelona's scraps. There were calls for Zizou's removal after the El Clasico fiasco. He probably would have been axed had he not defeated Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League Round of 16.
He hasn't eluded the executioner yet. Silverware is the only currency he can offer club president Florentino Perez to stay in his post into next season. Plans are already in place to replace him if the need arises. Both Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are rumoured replacements.
Clinching the title is Zidane's lifeline. Luckily he has a rejuvenated Ronaldo on the other end reeling him in.
However it goes for the great player turned coach, Zidane has done more than enough to draw interest from other clubs. He has already admitted he wants to coach Juventus in the future. After he has twice now dispatched his former club, you have to believe they would jump at the opportunity to have him on their side.
For now, the Frenchman must win out in La Liga over the next three fixtures, deal with Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinal, then face Barcelona at the Nou Camp. A credible showing in that match may be as important as reaching another Champions League Final. Zidane admitted earlier this year that coaching the club was "tiring". He won't find rest anytime soon.