Is Zinedine Zidane in danger of being sacked by Real Madrid?
By Joe Harker
As Real Madrid manager there is no action fraught with more danger than losing to Barcelona. While victory in La Liga and the Champions League is expected, dominance over their fierce rivals is a necessity if a manager is to survive and thrive. Current manager Zinedine Zidane has won back to back Champions Leagues and claimed the club's first La Liga title since 2012 but he is under pressure this season and scrutiny on him has been increased by a recent 3-0 defeat in the famous El Clasico fixture.
It wasn't supposed to be this way this season, Barcelona had lost Neymar in the summer while Real Madrid did a La Liga and Champions League double. Madrid humiliated their rivals in the Spanish Super Cup and it looked clear that one club was in the ascendancy while the other was facing a multitude of problems. The stage looked set for a new era of Real Madrid dominance, but the Clasico defeat seems to have put a title defence in serious doubt and questions are being asked of Zidane.
Former Barcelona striker Thierry Henry called any talk of Zidane being sacked "comical". He was a Real Madrid legend as a player and his trophy wins as a manager should be enough to grant him time that other managers may not get with the infamously impatient club. Real Madrid is a place where even the manager must bend to the will of the superstars, but Zidane enjoyed such a status himself and was able to make tough choices without landing himself in trouble with the hierarchy. It would probably be better to stick with a manager who has the freedom to make tough decisions and make drastic changes to the team if necessary.
However, Clasico defeats often have consequences. Zidane's predecessor was Rafa Benitez, sacked shortly after a thrashing by Barcelona, and the Frenchman could suffer the same fate if club bosses believe he is not up to the task. His reputation as a player and his competition wins might give him more clout than other managers but it may not spare him forever. Carlo Ancelotti won the famous "La Decima", the club's tenth Champions League and was sacked a year later despite it.
Looking at his record of competition wins it would seem that Zidane is a top class manager with a bright future in the game, but Miguel Delaney of The Independent suggests that he needs to prove he is more than just in the right place at the right time. Many managers who win the Champions League do not go on to have a consistently successful career and Zidane could be a "facilitator", a manager who pushes an already great team in the right direction after others have built it.
Marca say Zidane has "50 days to save Real Madrid's season" and suggest that the club might put aside their domestic aspirations to stake everything on another Champions League triumph. Real Madrid have been handed a tough draw against PSG and being knocked out of Europe might mean they have to write off the season. The club might spend big money in January in an attempt to redress the balance of power but if that does not work they may conclude that Zidane is not the right man after all.