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Published on October 8th, 2018 | by Paco Polit

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Will Real Madrid stick or twist with Julen Lopetegui?

🕓 Reading time:3 minutes

Three years ago, Real Madrid jettisoned a coach and brought in Zinedine Zidane. Is it worth repeating the trick to kickstart their season?

OK, now *this* is a full-fledged crisis for Real Madrid

Players hate the word, managers scoff at the concept and board members try to remain deaf to its significance. But here it is. Crisis. A real, tangible crisis has installed itself in Real Madrid’s locker room. And there’s no La Liga for two weeks, so we have plenty of time to dissect what is happening with the current Champions League holders.

This might come as a surprise for some, but not for those who have followed our analysis over the past two months.

Reports collide and add contradictory evidence about Julen Lopetegui’s immediate future. Sources close to Real Madrid guarantee the Spaniard will be on the bench after the international break. Others insist that the decision regarding the manager’s position will be taken in the first few days of this week. Whatever happens, though, the truth is that Spain’s former coach is one of the most heavily criticized individuals in this hot mess.

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Will history repeat for Real Madrid?

Florentino Pérez faces one of those choices that usually throws the season totally off-rails or, inversely, steers the car back on to the right track. Three years ago he found himself in the same predicament. Rafa Benítez had been brought back to Madrid with a mission to make Ancelotti a memory of the past. But his hard-work ethic and no-nonsense attitude didn’t gel well with a squad who were comrades with an easy-going Ancelotti.

So the president fired Benitez. No second thoughts. And brought in an inexperienced Zidane. The rest is history.

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Players just as much to blame for Madrid malaise

Is sacking Lopetegui the answer to Real’s crisis?

It doesn’t really look like it. It might be the quickest, or the easiest. However, the squad doesn’t seem to believe that kicking the manager out is the best course of action. “It would be crazy to sack him”, stated captain Sergio Ramos on Saturday. “It’s pretty evident that you guys want to sack him”, said Raphael Varane to journalists in Vitoria, “but it’s not what we want”.

The truth is that Madrid’s problems can’t be summed-up in a few lines. Too complex an issue. We can identify, nevertheless, three crucial issues that must be addressed.

First and foremost – ‘The Moneyball problem’. If you have seen that movie, you will recall how Billie Beane didn’t buy players. He bought runs to buy wins. Apply that to Real Madrid and the conclusion is that to compensate for the 30 or 40 goals Cristiano Ronaldo scored like clockwork season after season, Los Blancos needed to sign one of two players capable of getting close to those numbers. That ‘paperwork’ wasn’t done this summer (sorry Mariano, no offense).

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Champions League euphoria to blame for slump 

Then, the surge of optimism that swept the club after their third Champions League in a row. It became apparent that many inside the executive box thought that they were doing things so well, so flawlessly, that even Zinedine Zidane’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure would make no dent in Real’s big-game hunter plan. A belief that conveniently omitted the many, many moments when a single lucky outcome saved the team from doom last season. That lucky charm seems to have gone nowadays.

Finally, let’s talk about the players. Most of them are underperforming. Period. No back-tracking on that statement. The first few games (and their impressive showcase against AS Roma) made us believe that things were looking up for the team. But nothing really positive has come out lately from Benzemà’s feet, Gareth Bale’s runs, Marco Asensio’s dribbles or Luka Modric’s assists.

As long as the players don’t perform an extensive self-assessment and increase their performance rate, the team won’t come out from its slump. Even though, if we want to paint the whole picture, it’s still very early in the season to believe that Real won’t be a serious contender for any competition.

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante's news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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