“Zidane had been at his brilliant best in terms of tactics when he had no better options, gaining support from the whole team and maintained unity when the kingdom was almost in ruins. Real Madrid would need him for the next season as well. There can be no better options than Zidane”

 

Time was running fast, yes very fast at the Alfredo Di Stefano, where Real Madrid were trailing by 0-1 against Villarreal in one of the most important games this season. It was a must-win game for the Los Blancos and with just three minutes remaining for the normal time to end, Karim Benzema broke the deadlock.

Benzema gave Real Madrid a soupcon of hope with an expert finish from the edge of the area and with the scores level, in the stoppage time, the brilliant Luka Modric smashed home and gained the all important lead. Real Madrid ensured a victory in the most important game of the season but ultimately lost the battle as Atletico Madrid beat Real Valladolid at Jose Zorilla and with that pocketed the title.

2020-21 was season was Real Madrid’s 117th season in existence and the 90th consecutive season in the top flight of Spanish football. In addition to the domestic league, Real Madrid participated in this season’s editions of the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de Espana, and the UEFA Champions League.

Los Blancos were knocked out by Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey and were eliminated at the hands of Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals and lost the La Liga title race to Atletico Madrid.

The last time Real Madrid didn’t win a trophy in a season was 11 years ago when they were eliminated by Alcorcon at the last-32 stage of the Copa del Rey by Alcorcon and failed to make it past Lyon in the Champions League’s Round of 16.

Real Madrid and winning trophies are synonymous and when a club like Real Madrid finish the season without any trophies in the cabinet then it hurts the ego of the fans and followers.

They were so near, still so far, and surely those points lost or dropped against weaker opponents would hurt.

The defeat against Cadiz at home last October was a disgraceful one.

The 1-4 thrashing against Valencia despite taking the lead through Benzema and giving away three penalties and an own goal still hurt and the defeat against Deportivo Alaves rubbed more slats to the injury.

And in the last game, last year against Elche was a draw where the Los Blancos should have bagged full points and the same should have happened against Levante in the last week of January where they were beaten by 2-1. The goalless draw against Getafe in the crucial stage of the La Liga title race in the second week of last month dented the hopes.

In the meantime, the whole unit was ravaged by injuries and COVID.

The coach Zinedine Zidane was losing better options almost in every match.

Still, he decided to fight till the end and until the last day of the season, he and his boys kept the fight alive.

There had been 62 injury setbacks, losing against lower-ranked teams; failures in the domestic competitions and Champions League; but those failures cannot mask the kind of character Zidane and his boys exhibited throughout the season.

Time and again they had been done and dusted – still they stood up, looked towards the sun, focused on the target, and concentrated on fighting.

One might focus on the lack of trophies in this season, but he or she should not forget the development of Eder Militao as a brilliant center-back and the filled big boots of Sergio Ramos. Lucas Vazquez has been a revolution throughout the season because of his all-round brilliance whereas Nacho Fernandez showed his capabilities at the back under pressure.

Of course, who would ever think that Fede Valverde could play as a right-back, but he showed his all-round brilliance that would be beneficial for the Los Blancos in the coming days.

Also, the likes of Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, Marco Asensio, and other youngsters such as Miguel Gutierrez, Marvin, Sergio Arribas, Antonio Blanco, Victor Chust, Hugo Duro, and Marvin showed promises for the future.

Of course, the big guns showed up whenever it was required to live another day.

Casemiro notched up 46 appearances in all competitions this season, including 34 La Liga matches for Real Madrid. Registering a goal involvement of 13 goals (seven goals, six assists) in all competitions, Casemiro enjoyed his most productive season in Real Madrid colours.

He enjoyed a passing accuracy of over 83% in the 2020-21 La Liga including a 71.5% success rate with the long balls.

Casemiro’s forte is the defensive side of his game, sitting in front of Real Madrid’s backline and shielding the defence and thus he registered 151 tackles and interceptions at a tackle success rate of around 40%. The 29-year old’s tally of 62 interceptions in the 2020-21 La Liga was the second-most in the league.

Modric was like a gem throughout this season.

He racked up 48 appearances for Real Madrid this season, playing in 80% of the team’s La Liga minutes this term, and completed 86.9% passes in the 2020-21 La Liga, including a staggering 78.3% long passes.

Modric also recorded 208 progressive passes and seven goal-creating actions in the Spanish top flight this season.

Toni Kroos was arguably Real Madrid’s best midfielder in the 2020-21 season.

He was involved in 15 goals (three goals, 12 assists) in 42 appearances across all competitions.

Kroos displayed his imperious passing range this season, picking out teammates in dangerous positions. The German also showcased exceptional passing accuracy during the campaign. He registered an almost 90% pass completion rate in the 2020-21 La Liga, 95.7% in short passes, and over 76% in long passes.

Kroos also tallied an impressive xA (expected assists) of 8.6 across all competitions in 2020-21.

Under pressure, Thibaut Courtois proved his worth.

His Belgian teammate might have been a matter of frustration for everyone, but for Real Madrid, Courtois gave his all by registering 22 clean sheets in all competitions during the season.

Courtois recorded a staggering 81.1% save success rate in the 2020-21 La Liga, conceding only 28 goals off 111 shots on target. The Belgian ended his league campaign with 17 clean sheets, just one behind Golden Glove winner Jan Oblak. Courtois recorded a clean sheet ratio of 44.7% in the league, playing all 38 games for Real Madrid.

In 51 appearances across all competitions this season, the La Liga and Premier League winner conceded only 44 goals, doing so at an average of 0.86 goals conceded per 90 minutes.

Upfront, it was none but Benzema, who yet again was the hit-man and savior of Zidane.

He was Real Madrid’s highest goal scorer across all competitions in 2020-21, while he ranked second in terms of assists. Benzema lodged an xG of 22.8 this season, one of the highest in Europe’s top five leagues, coupled with an xA of 8.1.

Karim Benzema (23) finished behind Lionel Messi in the 2020-21 La Liga scoring charts, recording 1.0 goals and assists per 90 minutes, the third-highest in the Spanish top-flight.

Along with his goals in La Liga, Benzema notched up six strikes in the Champions League, playing a pivotal role in Real Madrid’s run to the semi-finals.

Above all, Zidane had been at his brilliant best in terms of tactics when he had no better options, gaining support from the whole team and maintained unity when the kingdom was almost in ruins.

Real Madrid would need him for the next season as well. There can be no better options than Zidane.

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Yes, a season without trophies, but be proud Real Madrid!

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