Exit Benitez, Enter Zidane

by | Jan 4, 2016

Shortly after five o’clock this afternoon, the journalist Guillem Balagué appeared on the television in Spain and stated with absolute confidence that Rafael Benítez, the coach of Real Madrid for the last seven months, had already been sacked but the club could not announce it at that time because there was a children’s party taking place in the area in which they wanted to reveal the news. Sometimes, these stories more or less write their own punchlines.

In England, the reflex reaction to this news might well be, “Is failing to beat Gary Neville really that bad?” Snark aside, it would appear that this might even been a tipping point, in this case. Real Madrid were held to a two-all draw by Valencia yesterday, a result that leaves them a cavernous and clearly unacceptable four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two points behind Barcelona. Of course, Barcelona beat Real by four goals to nil in November and – in plot lines that may well feel familiar to supporters of Chelsea and Manchester United – there have been criticisms of the playing style of the team and rumours of unrest amongst the players.

The man to replace Benitez is the rather familiar name of Zinedine Zidane. It’s a curious choice, and not one that speaks volumes for the club’s opinion of Benitez, either. Zidane only completed his UEFA coaching badges last year and has been managing the Real Madrid ‘B’ team Castilla since last summer. It’s possible that Zizou might just turn out to be as great a coach as he was a player. It’s also possible, however, that he might not, and the world of the modern day football coach is unpredictable enough for it to be difficult to imagine him in the position, no matter how successful he may or may not be, in, say, five years time, all of which means that some day – and probably someday soon – club president Florentino Perez is going to have to sack Zinedine Zidane as the Real Madrid head coach. “Cojones,” we believe the word is, on all sides.

It goes without saying, of course, that the European super clubs have taken a sense of entitlement to extreme new levels, these days. For Real Madrid, it would appear that being in third place in La Liga and not playing football that will make angels weep salty tears of joy is sufficient for the ripping up of his contract after just a few months. Indeed, such was the predictability of this departure that one can only wonder aloud why they bothered printing off the three year version of their contract in the first place. Was there anybody in the whole of football who ever believed for so much as a nanosecond that Rafael Benitez would last three years as the coach of Real Madrid?

Well, whatever. Good luck, M. Zidane. You’re going to need it, we rather think.

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