5 things that went wrong for Real Madrid in the 2018-19 season
Everything was perfect at Santiago Bernabeu until the 2017-18 season came to a close. Zinedine Zidane had marshaled his resources and ensured that a third straight UEFA Champions League arrived at the Spanish capital. Even though everything was not rosy, the Los Blancos stars were confidently preparing themselves for the World Cup in Russia, before the news dropped on them like a bombshell; that Zizou was leaving. There onwards, it was an absolute downward slide.
Here is a look at the five of the many things that went wrong for them this season:
5. Miserable defending
Real Madrid have had an abysmal start to the 2018-19 La Liga campaign, and are finding themselves languishing in fifth place, having conceded 23 goals already. They have signed a fine talent in Alvaro Odriozola, who will challenge Dani Carvajal and Nacho for a starting place in the eleven. But their worry lies in the fact that the once invincible Marcelo has witnessed a huge dip in form, which has directly contributed to many goals they have conceded. Coming to think of it, it was inevitable that teams took advantage of the Brazilian going too far up, and not paying attention to his defensive duties. Rafael Varane, after winning the World Cup for France, has been a pale shadow of his former self. On top of all this, Thibaut Courtois made a move from Stamford Bridge to Real Madrid, after an excellent last few months. The Belgian has been nothing short of atrocious and has let in many a cheap goal.
4. Aging midfield
The core element that set the Bernabeu outfit apart from other European sides was their disciplined and technically superior midfield. The trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro were instrumental in all the accolades which were pouring into the Real Madrid team. Zidane used them wisely, gave them ample rest and saved their best for the important clashes. Things have changed for the worse though. Modric was the vital cog in the Croatian machinery that surprised everyone by finishing runners-up to France in Russia and was deservedly crowned with the Golden Ball, the Ballon d’Or, FIFA Best Player and the UEFA Player of the Year, usurping the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Mo Salah. However, these performances have taken a huge toll on the Croatian wizard who would still be fatigued. Age is slowly catching up with Modric and his German counterpart Toni Kroos is not the young prodigy who captivated everyone with his vision and passing accuracy, anymore. Mateo Kovacic has gone on loan to Chelsea, and that has heaped the pressure on Casemiro, who has frankly been below par.
3. Underperforming attack
In spite of all this, Real would have still got away if only they had been good offensively. That is far from the case, as the attack led by Karim Benzema, Isco and Gareth Bale have been firing blanks literally, as could be seen from their measly return of 26 goals, as opposed to Barcelona’s ridiculously high 50. The Frenchman Benzema has tried his heart out by scoring 7 goals and making 2 assists, even though he has wasted many a chance in the matches so far. Isco has had a dramatic fall-out with the interim manager Santiago Solari and has been warming the bench in almost all the matches, scoring 4 goals in all competitions. Gareth Bale has also been guilty of not fulfilling his massive potential and not converting chances, in the wake of the Welshman being billed as the future Galactico. It is noteworthy that their captain and star defender Sergio Ramos has scored 4 goals, and is only behind Benzema on the goal tally. However, none of them feature in the list of top 10 goalscorers in La Liga, which is a huge cause of worry.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure
The Portuguese talisman has been the go-to man and flagbearer of the Real Madrid attack for many years, ever since his big-money move from Manchester United. In his nine-year stint at the capital, he amassed record after record and became a club legend. However, his feud with club President Florentino Perez was well-documented in the media, and as a result, saw Ronaldo bidding adieu to the Spanish giants and joining Italian champions Juventus in Turin. Perez was heard remarking that Ronaldo’s absence would not be felt at Real and that the club would replicate their success this season. If only that were the case! Ronaldo has continued his success story in the Scudetto as well, whereas his ex-teammates have struggled to do well in the final third. The inability of Real Madrid to find an adequate replacement for the Portuguese legend was telling in its failed pursuits of superstars like Eden Hazard, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. The Brazilian wonderkid Vinicius Jr. is a work-in-progress and it would be grossly unfair on him to be told to instantly replicate Ronaldo’s consistency. Mariano Diaz coming back from Olympique Lyon has also not filled the hole which has been created by Ronaldo’s departure.
1. Managerial circus
Ever since Zidane left Real Madrid for good, it was bound to be a topsy-turvy affair at the Bernabeu, with the questionable recruitment policies of Florentino Perez. In spite of having options like Mauricio Sarri, Leonardo Jardim and Antonio Conte available to him, he turned bizarrely to Julen Lopetegui whose credentials were nothing great. His history at FC Porto was nothing to boast about, but also the timing of his announcement as the manager proved suicidal as Lopetegui, the then manager of the Spanish national side, was sacked due to his pre-contract with Real Madrid. As expected, he did not exude confidence and they lost points drastically at the start, and there was no coming back. Perez was ruthless again in Lopetegui’s unceremonious removal and appointed Castilla coach and ex-player Santiago Solari as the interim coach. The first set of results was positive although the Argentine has still not managed to steady the ship at the Bernabeu. The FIFA Club World Cup came as a confidence boost, but then, Real Madrid have potentially lost the La Liga campaign, and frankly, the chances of them holding on to the Champions League are bleak.