Is Zinedine Zidane making the right choice to return to Real Madrid?
By Joe Harker
Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane has returned to the club for a second stint in management, signing a contract to take charge of the first team until 2022. Initially brought in to replace Rafa Benitez in 2016, Zidane won three Champions Leagues and a La Liga title in two and a half seasons.
His decision to leave the club was a shock, announced shortly after winning a third consecutive Champions League title. Spain national team manager Julen Lopetegui was announced as his replacement and was promptly sacked from his job before the World Cup as a result. He was not the club's first choice to replace Zidane.
Early struggles saw Lopetegui sacked in October and replaced by Santiago Solari, who has just been sacked. Real Madrid are out of the Champions League, Copa del Rey and 12 points off the top of the La Liga table. They appear to have nothing to play for and are on their third manager for the season.
The Daily Mirror reports that Zidane has returned to the club with the promise of plenty of money to spent to rebuild an ageing squad.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is head honcho at the club but Zidane's return has allowed him to extract certain concessions. The manager will have more power at the club, including a larger say in what happens off the pitch, something he felt he didn't have during his first stint.
Zidane walked away from the club and they need him more than he needs them. He negotiated from a position of strength, walking away for less than a season giving him more clout with Perez than three consecutive Champions League wins.
Perez considered appointing former Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, most recently sacked by Manchester United, but star players in the dressing room including club captain Sergio Ramos reportedly vetoed the idea, leaving Zidane as the other option to turn to.
The Counter Claim:
Spanish paper Marca wrote of Real Madrid's decline this season that Zidane was the first to see it coming and that is why he left at the end of last season.
The manager had just led his side to three consecutive Champions League victories but he could see that the squad desperately needed an overhaul. He wanted some players sold and others brought in, warning Perez that he wasn't prepared to lead a squad he thought was on the verge of collapse.
The manager might do well to remember why he left in the first place. Even with a large transfer budget he might struggle to bring in the players he wanted. We are in the age where the best players in the world can cost well over £100 million and clubs like Real Madrid are charged a premium.
It's all very well wanting to overhaul the squad, quite another actually being able to do it. The Daily Telegraph reports that the club's finances are in a tough spot and with plenty of players getting older and on huge contracts it may be hard to see who they can offload some of their costly players to.
An overhaul means clearing out some players and bringing in others. Which clubs are going to splash the cash and offer high wages for players who are coming to the end of their best days?
The manager has secured three major concessions from Perez. More say on and off the pitch, a bigger salary and a large transfer budget.
The Independent reports that Zidane has been promised a £300 million transfer budget for the summer to rebuild the squad and bring in the first "Galactico" since James Rodriguez was signed in 2014.
Neymar and Kylian Mbappe of PSG and Eden Hazard of Chelsea are Zidane's top targets, though there is not enough money for all three to be signed. A new forward or two to replace Cristiano Ronaldo's goals is an important part of the rebuild.