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31 May 2018updated 01 Jun 2018 9:05pm

Zinedine Zidane’s resignation is yet another reason why Real Madrid are nobody’s second team

Los Blancos are plagued by a culture of impatience and excess.

By Rohan Banerjee

No other manager’s job in world football is as high-profile and as high-stakes as the one at Real Madrid. On Thursday, less than a week after winning a third Champions League title in as many years – and in doing so, becoming the first person to ever achieve this feat since the competition’s revamp in 1992 – Zinedine Zidane resigned as Los Blancos boss. The club needed a “different voice” going forward, he claimed. The Frenchman, who was also one of the most decorated players in Madrid’s history, told a press conference: “What I think is that this team needs to continue winning but I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology. Everything changes. That’s why I took this decision.” He added: “I love this club.”

Zidane’s decision to step down – which many suspect was not reached independently – does not suggest a club that loves him back. Fans spoilt by success delivered on an industrial scale – Zidane won a total of nine major trophies in less than three years in charge – were left dissatisfied by Madrid’s third-place finish in the domestic table.

Their avarice should not be confused for ambition. Where most clubs’ boards implore patience and understanding from their fanbase as they look to build, sustain and grow, Madrid’s actively encourages a hardnosed want to win and a refusal to accept anything less.

That many Madrid fans were calling for Zidane to be sacked following the 1-0 league defeat at home by Villarreal this January is an indication of mass ingratitude and impatience. Yet it exists because the club’s board is guilty of the same crimes. Not since Miguel Muñoz, who coached Los Blancos between 1960 and 1974, has a manager at the Santiago Bernabéu lasted more than four years.

But as challenging as the board at Madrid is the politics amongst playing staff. With the club committed to an actual policy to sign marquee players at every opportunity – the Galácticos initiative introduced by club president Florentino Pérez – managers can face the difficult task, results aside, of keeping multiple superstars’ egos intact. Signings in the Spanish capital are often made, the author of Fear and Loathing in La Liga Sid Lowe has noted, with reputations and potential shirt sales in mind, rather than based on whether they will actually benefit the squad. Lowe wrote for the Guardian in 2009: “It is less about building a team, more about building an identity, a brand.” 

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For example, there is a strained relationship between two Galácticos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Both commanded world-record transfer fees at the time of signing for the club and both want to be used as the starting line-up’s main attacking outlet. This has caused problems over the last five years, during which three men have sat in the Madrid dugout. Star players, it seems, have more of a say in how Madrid’s team is managed than the managers themselves.

Zidane’s departure, of course, now initiates the search for his replacement. And despite the obvious drawbacks – such as the aggressive approach to the transfer market and a lack of empathy from the stands – Madrid will not struggle to attract candidates to the role. For whatever perception that the job is a poisoned chalice, there is also the undeniable appeal of being the person to buck the trend. But it is worth remembering that a whole host of world-class managers have had the Madrid job, and been dismissed for failing to a reach a standard that most watchers of football would be unsure even exists.

It should be no wonder, then, why Madrid are rarely the neutrals’ choice.

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