Real Madrid – Opinion The opinion of Carlos Carpio
Zinedine Zidane’s line-up against Alcoyano already suggested that it could be a difficult night. There were two debutants, seven regular backups and only two regular starters against an Alcoyano side playing the game of their lives. It was a risk and it backfired. Sooner or later, Zidane was going to pay for the run of seven games in a row using basically the same group of players. It wasn’t expected to be against a 10-man Segunda B side, though.
When Real Madrid were close to Champions League elimination a few months ago, Zidane decided to stop rotating and used around 13 or 14 players continually. He gave up his main strength as a coach, as well as his strongest hope for the medium term, which is to have all the players in squad switched on and engaged. Then when these backups were suddenly thrown in, the response was an expected lack of response.
It’s not easy to say if the chicken or the egg came first. It’s hard to know if the backups failed to perform because the coach hardly used them or if he hardly used them because he knew they couldn’t perform. There’s a mix in this group of backups of veterans and novices. Even in that group, there’s youngsters with the chance to make it at the club and others who show the Real Madrid shirt is too big for them every time they put it on. Whether for a lack of character or quality, that seems to be the case with Alvaro Odriozola, Mariano, Eder Militao and Luka Jovic.
It’s clear that there’s a contrast between the club’s policy of bringing in young talent and developing these players and Zidane‘s management of these players. It can’t be easy to bring about a generational change at a club where there is more demand than any other in world football, because you know you have to win. There’s no patience, so there’s no alternative. Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari have fallen victim to this despite doing some good work. Then Zidane arrived and won some more titles, but the youngsters fell to the wayside apart from a few exceptions.
Real Madrid have four really promising young talents in the form of Fede Valverde, Martin Odegaard, Vinicius and Rodrygo. Bringing on Odegaard after three matches out injured at Mestalla in the 64th minute when Real Madrid were losing 4-1 was harsh. He was one of the stars of LaLiga Santander last year. Fede Valverde, meanwhile, was the MVP of last year’s Supercopa de Espana and had pushed Luka Modric out of the starting XI. Then Vinicius, even with his lack of finishing, was Real Madrid‘s main offensive argument under Solari. In Alcoy, Vinicius made a couple of big errors as he failed to capitalise on a one-vs-one chance and then lost his marker at the Alcoyano corner that brought the equaliser. Yet one week ago Lucas Vazquez also made two mistakes to cost Real Madrid the Supercopa. Then, Zidane played him in the next match. I hope he does the same in the next game with Vinicius because he needs it much more than Lucas. The figure of Zidane is eroding because it’s becoming clear that he prioritises veterans who aren’t at the level any more, like Isco or Marcelo, over youngsters who could make it.