If the old Marxist Antonio Gramsci were to face the landscape after the Real Madrid derailment in Alcoy, he would find that he already has an adage written to summarize it: “The old world dies, the new world takes time to appear, and in that chiaroscuro the monsters arise” . Transitions from glorious cycles to the next have never been painless in soccer and are especially complex in the hands of the same coach. At Atlético, for example, despite the insistence of the leadership, Simeone delayed the retirement of his old guard until their contracts were consumed.
In Madrid, Zidane has returned again and again to the certainties of his praetorians while in the offices contracts were signed with the future that immediately led to offices abroad: Theo, Marcos Llorente, Ceballos, Achraf, Reguilón, Brahim, Jovic, Odegaard … They arrived, or they were already in Valdebebas, entered Zidane’s wheel and were expelled.
In the offices, they regret that the coach did not give them enough opportunities to finish it and their degree of aptitude could be verified. From his position on the bench, Zidane defended himself on Tuesday, the eve of the match against Alcoyano, with the echoes of Jovic’s recent transfer to Eintracht Frankfurt: “It is easy to say that it is my fault,” he said. “What you have to do is, when you are inside, show yourself, with the competition that there is, that it is strong. But it’s not the coach’s fault. The player has to demonstrate ”.
The auditor KPMG published a report a few days ago that supports part of Zidane’s lament. Among the champions of the European leagues, Real Madrid’s squad is the one that has lost the most value over the last year, 25%. And his most valuable footballer is Casemiro, a defensive midfielder, something unusual in the club of the tinsel and the galactics.
Already before the end of the five years of the four Champions, Florentino Pérez began to move the resources towards the generational change. Zidane has been in charge of executing that plan in two eras, the one that died in the final in Kiev in 2018, and the current one. But in both, pressured at the same time by the permanent demand for triumphs of the institution, he has immediately retreated to the safe positions of the veterans: they were still able to win the League last summer.
However, this Thursday, after the team was eliminated in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey by a Second B team that finished the game with one less player, the expression “end of cycle” was repeated in the offices, according to sources close to the club’s high command.
Not because of the Cup itself, which they recognize that traditionally they have not shown much affection, but because of what they assume as a symptom of recent drift. “We are not playing well”, they say of a season in which they have not been able to beat Cádiz, Alavés, Shakhtar, Elche, Osasuna and Alcoyano.
At the top they do not see this “end of the cycle” as something abrupt, or with imminent consequences such as the dismissal of the coach, but as a limit set for this summer. The precise scope will have to do, as always, with the loot of the moment. On several occasions, such as after the last Champions League and after the last League, success has made the outgoing generation see with better eyes, also the leadership, and has cooled the momentum of change.
Little financial margin
The moment in which this assault, which is announced as definitive, arises, is especially pressing. Like the rest of the big clubs, the pandemic has placed Madrid in a very tight financial situation, with an extraordinary drop in income. But, unlike the rest, the margin of the whites is narrower due to the reform of the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, which adjusts its borrowing capacity for other operations; the self-imposed rigor that has led him to be almost the only one who closed the previous year on a positive note; and the money committed to the players destined to take over. Pérez has entrusted the creation of a new winning cycle to that replacement, the stadium’s income and those of the uncertain European Super League that it promotes.
While that happens in the heights, soccer continues on the grass. This Saturday they travel to Vitoria, and this Thursday Zidane met them for ten minutes before training: “Maximum positivity and enthusiasm for what is important, which are the League and the Champions League,” says a source present at the talk.
They will face the second section of the course with the echoes of the hit against Alcoyano, with the captain, Sergio Ramos, looking forward to continuing without knowing where he will play after June, part of the squad with escape temptations like Jovic and Odegaard and another, frowning at the 10% cut in his salary, which they do not want to grant with the same docility as last season.