Yes, it has happened. Fantasista legend Zinedine Zidane has finally been appointed coach of Real Madrid after the club moved to sack Rafael Benitez due to a perceived poor start.
In truth, Benitez was a dead-man walking ever since his appointment (it could be argued anybody is when accepting the hottest seat in football), however a major factor which culminated in the Spaniard’s eventual dismissal was the handling and eventual fallings out with fan-favourites Isco, and, rather more infamously, James Rodriguez, with whom he reportedly shared a fractious relationship.
The playmaking duo found it tough to break into Benitez’s starting XI consistently given his natural conservatism; but that coupled with club politics and the ‘unofficial’ presidential mandate which dictates an all-star front three of the BBC – Bale, Benzema and Cristiano – always play, made it even more difficult, given the attacking balance of the team.
This has added complications given president Florentino Perez also prefers all of his Galacticos included in the line-up – i.e. James Rodriguez, plus Gareth Bale’s desire to play in a central role where he feels more involved.
Backed by Benitez, with the president’s blessing, Bale was often granted his desire but this approach severely limited the two authentic playmakers more suited to the No10 position, creating added tension which became increasingly problematic – especially when the now ex-manager refused to pick, or even turn to, either player during the recent 2-2 draw with Valencia.
In the immediate aftermath, Isco was strongly rumoured to be considering his future with Los Blancos now the transfer window has reopened – with Manchester City and Juventus waiting in the wings. With James, the snub merely increased his disillusioned state.
So, with Benitez now gone and Zidane taking over, all problems are solved, right?
After all, the players now have an actual No10 rather than disparagingly referring to Benitez as one, due to his lack of playing career yet still attempting to school them in the art of football. Now they have a legend – a former playmaker who can teach the playmakers and give them the role in the team they crave and the playing time the fans think they deserve.
Yet what seems a positive change for James and Isco may not immediately work out as such: the same big issues remain.
Addressing the media during his very first press conference as boss, Zidane was asked how he would welcome the disgruntled playmakers back into the team, to which he replied:
The entire squad are going to be important. James and Isco are two formidable players and they’re going to be as important to me as everyone else.
However when bluntly asked if he will persist with the BBC frontline, Zizou categorically stated “Yes, I will play with the three. Yes. The idea is that. Clearly.”
Zidane also gave strong backing to Gareth Bale’s central role in the team, saying:
He’s phenomenal and what he has been doing recently is fantastic. I am going to give him all my affection and support so that he plays well for us.
Conclusions drawn indicate that the BBC front three are still indispensable, but everyone else has squad status. Zidane will need to use all of his natural inspirational abilities and steely determination to keep everyone happy, and is already said to have vetoed an Isco transfer, insisting again:
About James and Isco, with important players, very good players, the only thing is to give them love and confidence, and I have to do that.
Having played for and assisted some of the best coaches in the business, Zidane has often been asked who he would most like to emulate as a manager, but merely insists:
What I have to do is to be the coach that I want to be. Everyone says that to me: ‘Do what you think is right for your players and your team.’ You can’t do the same as another coach did. I have to be Zidane.
Isco and James will hope Zidane, an authentic No10 turned manager, allows their own playmaking abilities to shine.