What a great season. What an achievement. Real Madrid beat Juventus 1-4 to achieve a league and european double for the first time since 1958. Quite remarkable given the raft of talent that has come through the Bernabéu doors. If there was any sense of Zidane’s first CL triumph being a fluke; amazingly even compared to Di Matteo’s time in charge of Chelsea in 2012 and I’m not speaking hair. This season Zidane ensured that he must be respected by winning four out of the five competitions he took part in.
Zidane was a great footballer and by winning the Champions league in successive seasons for the first time since its inception he has proven to be a great manager. He has won more champions leagues than years spent as manager of Real Madrid. The records go on:
- Real Madrid eclipsed Bayern Munich’s record by scoring in more successive games than any other european club in history.
- They scored in all their games for the first time in their history.
- Longest unbeaten Spanish run.
- All outfield players either scored or assisted this season.
- Most away goals scored in a Laliga season, etc.
It’s remarkable and in that unbeaten run some were certain defeats which would be turned into valuable points at the end of the season.
After the Champions league triumph last season most of the chit-chat was how Madrid avoided a serious opponent en route to winning the coveted trophy. But some claimed Real were the weakest of the remaining semi-final opponents that contained Man City, Atlèti & Bayern. That Madrid beat City by an own goal made it even more frustrating.
But this season the doubts have been put aside and respect has been given duly not least by Madrid president Florentino Perez who claimed he was the “best manager in the world”. Zidane, modest as ever after winning his third Champions League as a player and manager said “I’m not the best coach in the world”. The fact is he is. Whether statistically, this season or how he’s managed to knit one of the most notorious locker rooms together. More importantly, his treatment of Madrid great Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cr7 has always had an appetite for scoring goals, smashing the record books and creating his own history. To do this he has played game after game non-stop for the past eight seasons with the exception of his debut season when he was out for some time with injury. For this insatiable desire, he has earned:
- Three golden boots.
- Three Pichichis.
- Surpassed Raul as Madrid’s top scorer in less than seven years at the club.
- 400 goals for Madrid.
- Most hatricks in Laliga.
- 42 hatricks for Real Madrid. yes. Fourty-two.
He scored “just” four hatricks this season. Two of which however where in the champions league Quarters and Semi-finals stage and two of which were against Atlèti. Perhaps it was fitting then that on the night talks were made of him not turning up in finals of the UCL he scored a brace thus, notching up 500 goals for Madrid in the champions league and also scoring his 600th goal as a professional.
He now has seven goals in nine appearances against Buffon and nine goals in six against Neuer. With two hatricks against Oblak. These are top goal-keepers. You might be tempted to believe that Zizou’s plan of resting Ronaldo for important games of the season was key to him reaching the final stages at top-level. Did it help him? certainly. Was it the main reason? absolutely not.
Like I explained earlier, Zidane has surpassed all expectations. Brought in as merely a figure-head, a recognisable face to save a disastrous season. Zidane is untouchable now but at the beginning of the season there where doubts. He substituted Ronaldo out of the game against Las Palmas. A game were he played badly and deserved to be taken out. But one does not simply take Ronaldo out of a game unless you prefer not having a job. The next game against Dortmund, he scored and hugged Zidane on the touch-line. At the moment it seemed like an image to save face for the press letting everyone know all was calm between player and coach. But then alas it happened again and more substitutions subsequently followed until it turned out to be an agreement to keep him fresh for the most important games of the season were titles are won and lost. There were even some games when Ronaldo was left out completely from the matchday squad.
It may have been vindicated given that going into the quarter-finals Ronaldo had just two goals in the Champions League. After the final whistle in Cardiff……he had twelve (12).
Now in recent years aside from the aforementioned 09/10 season, Cr7 struggled with injuries in the 2013/14 season (despite Ancelotti’s best efforts to hide it) and more recently the 15/16 season. But even at that he still contributed massively not because he didn’t rest but because of the player he is. The sheer will and determination to keep going. Again it would help if he rested but even if he didn’t he would still perform on levels only great players get to.
- In 2013/14 Cr7 was half-fit when he contributed to 3 of 5 Madrid goals against Bayern Munich in the semi-final stage.
- 2014/15, his best season individually, he didn’t rest at all. Yet he scored 48 league goals. That’s 48 LEAGUE goals not for the season. He notched in 61 goals in total and a record equalling 8 Laliga hatricks.
- That same season he assisted the only goal in the tie against Atlèti in the quarter-final of the UCL.
- Again that same season he scored both Madrid goals in the Semi’s against Juventus.
- Last season? Came back from injury to score twice against Valencia and two more again on the final day. Pushing Barca all the way in the process.
- Scored the winner at Camp Nou to give Zidane a debut Clasico victory.
Saying “resting Ronaldo brought out his best form” is a disservice to his vast qualities as a player. This season he played 29 games and scored 25 goals, his lowest total since his debut season were he played the same amount of game but went 1 further in terms of goals. Last season, no rest, played 36, scored 35.
Ronaldo acknowledged Zidane’s help in getting him sharp for the final stretch of the season along with the help of summer acquisition Antonio Pintus. But in all honesty, rest or not, Ronaldo still guarantees 50 goals a season.
In summary, resting Ronaldo is an astute plan but it’s not the sole reason for his success this season. Saying so discredits not just him but also Zidane.