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10 decisions that led to Real Madrid's woeful year

Editorial: Ten decisions that led to Real Madrid's woeful 2018-19 season

March 6, 2019 By Oscar Rojas
Los Blancos' season seemed to be doomed right from the start, but why? Here are some reasons we think that forced the abrupt end of their dominance in Europe.

Everyone knew that all good things at Real Madrid would not last forever, but no one expected them to be over just ten months after their latest European day of glory. In ten days, Real Madrid lost their chances of winning the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League. Added to that, their La Liga loss against Barcelona practically killed their chances of winning the title, even though there is still a mathematical possibility of doing so.

But it was not a matter of what happened during the last ten days. Several decisions made in the last ten months added up to see such a disappointing end to Real Madrid's title hopes with three months left in the season. Here's our take on what went wrong with Los Blancos during the 2018-19 season.

1. Letting Zinedine Zidane leave the club

The French tactician decided to step aside from the team's coaching duties just days after winning the third consecutive UEFA Champions League title for them. Zidane should have been granted all the conditions he had named to continue coaching the club, which included selling some players he had deemed as problematic. The team's reluctance to add talent to Zizou's squad was the final insult to the Frenchman's requests. When he left the club, he hinted that the same team would not be able to keep on winning; maybe Florentino and Co. should have listened to him!

Zidane left the team on May 31, 2018. Now, he's being linked to a move back to the Bernabeu. Is he the right choice to lead the team's revival?

2. Hiring Julen Lopetegui

Getting someone to replace Zidane was no easy task, and Julen Lopetegui seemed like a safe bet for the Spanish side. Unfortunately, the move was controversial from day one, as Lopetegui was still under contract with the Spanish National Team. The Spanish Federation relieved Lopetegui from his duties with La Roja, putting on even more pressure to his first season as Los Blancos' coach. He was not able to make his players trust his tactics and got the boot after being slammed by Barcelona on October 28.

Lopetegui's term as Real´s boss got off with the wrong foot, following their 4-2 loss against Atlético in the UEFA Super Cup.

3. Letting Cristiano Ronaldo leave

The Portuguese ace's relationship with his employers resembled a roller-coaster ride, but he always delivered for Real Madrid when they needed him to. Losing Cristiano due to Pérez's reluctance to give into his wage demands seems to have backfired on the team, who lacked CR7's leadership in the continental competition when things got tough.

The team's all-time top scorer repeatedly stated how Florentino Pérez disrespected his legacy by not offering him the contract extension he thought he had earned.

 

4. The absence of high-profile signings

Cristiano Ronaldo was pretty clear about his intentions during the first half of 2018: he wanted to leave the club. Real Madrid's president decided to turn a deaf ear to those claims and chose not to sign one or two players that could match CR7's goalscoring tally. When they finally decided to sign someone, the Spanish giants could only sign Mariano Díaz from Olympique Lyon, who's contribution to the team this season has been quite underwhelming.

The Dominican Republic striker has only started one game, and managed to score just one goal for Los Blancos.

5. An ageing squad?

Zidane had stated that the team needed to boost their squad with young, ambitious players. He was right, as the same old squad could not handle playing almost three times per week. The absence of suitable replacements forced Lopetegui and Solari to play almost every game with the same lineup, which took a toll on the team's health time and time again.

Virtually all the players included in this picture had to deal with injuries at some point of the season, something that did not happen under Zidane.

6. Placing too much "weight" on Bale's back

Gareth Bale was Florentino Pérez's bet to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, and the Welshman failed miserably in his attempt to fill his void. His usual injury problems re-appeared, and when he was given the chance to shine, he was not able to make his presence felt. His complicated relationship with most players re-surfaced, including a nasty incident when he shoved Lucas Vázquez away when he was about to celebrate a goal. Fans have grown increasingly tired of his behavior, and his days with Los Blancos seem to be numbered.

The Welsh ace pushed hard to fill CR7's shoes, but he never got close to do that.

7.  Solari's bet takes a turn to the worse

The choice to give Zinedine Zidane the team's reigns worked like a charm, basically because he had credibility for his status as a football legend. Santiago Solari's term as boss started with a string of good results, but in the long run, his lack of experience handling a locker room filled with large egos took a toll on the team's performance, especially when he decided to bench some heavyweights like Isco and Marcelo. The coach may have some interesting ideas, but he lacked Zidane's "magic touch" when trying to make them work.

The solution from within did not work for Real Madrid as it did before.

8. Allowing too much disciplinary breaches

Isco, Marcelo, Gareth Bale and even Sergio Ramos were involved in disciplinary controversies with either the coach or with other members of the team. The rift between Isco and Solari has been well documented over the weeks, while Marcelo's wife recently got the footballer in trouble due to her comments on social media. The cherry on top came when Ramos "decided" to force a second booking in the UEFA Champions League to enter the quarter finals with no worries. Solari must be blamed for letting the players get away with their demands, rather than listening to their coach's orders.

Isco is closer than ever to an exit from the club, mainly because of his constant problems with the interim boss.

9. Sending Navas to the bench

When Thibaut Courtois arrived, most fans were left baffled by the team's decision due to Keylor Navas' reliability during their recent success. Sure, the Costa Rican goalie had some mistakes from time to time, but he was one of the most respected players inside the locker room due to his commitment and hard work. Solari's choice to bench Navas earned him quite a few digs, and Courtois' mistakes in key ties seem to put this decision under the microscope.

Navas was left out by Solari in La Liga and UEFA Champíons League, sparking criticism from fans and experts.

10. The lack of a top-caliber striker

Karim Benzema tried his best, but he could not become the reference Real Madrid needed to fill Cristiano's void. Florentino Pérez trusted the Frenchman's skills and backed him up through thick and thin, even when strikers such as Harry Kane and Mauro Icardi were tipped to join Los Blancos. The games against Barcelona left no doubt: Benzema is a good player, but not the sort of footballer that will lead the Spanish giants to greatness single-handedly.

The former French international increased his productivity compared to last season, but thinking that he could solve the team's goalscoring problems was simply impossible.

With almost three months left in La Liga, there will be all sorts of rumors surrounding the Spanish giants. If Real Madrid wants to rise from their ashes, their diagnosis of what led to their current crisis has to be spot on. The end of a glorious era is here for Los Blancos, and it's up to them to figure out how to make ammends for one of their worst seasons in recent history.


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