As Real Madrid wins the La Liga Santander for the record 34th time, they have not only proven the fact that they are capable of winning and taking titles even without Cristiano Ronaldo but have also manifested that it is the correct combination of young talent and experience which can do wonders for a football side.
When Zinedine Zidane-the manager of Real Madrid renewed his contract with the football club and returned as coach before the start of the season, he made his intentions clear and stated that his priority would be to win La Liga this year. Zidane who had already won 3 back to back UEFA Champions League with Madrid had failed to win La Liga post 2017. What was even worse was the fact that the club ranked third even behind Atletico Madrid for 2 consecutive years.
When Cristiano left Madrid in 2018, Real failed to win any silverware in the 2018-19 season. What haunted them even more was that they lost to Ajax 1-4 at the Bernabeu in the round of 16 of the UCL-a trophy they had managed to win for 3 years. This was a nightmare for all Madrid fans as they were not able to accept or forget this defeat. Critics started questioning the over dependence of the team on Ronaldo and what added even more spice was the injuries of crucial players like Gareth Bale in the 2018-19 season.
When Zidane resumed his work with Madrid in 2019, the first thing he did was to sign the Chelsea star Eden Hazard who he thought, would serve as the perfect replacement of Ronaldo. But Hazard got injured in the beginning of the season only and left Madrid to rely on youngsters like Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo as both other senior wingers Gareth Bale and Asensio were injured as well. It also pushed the workload on Karim Benzema-the striker who had a phenomenal season before the starting of 2020 scoring 12 goals in 16 matches.
Zidane realized that it is almost impossible to have another Ronaldo and thus another exceptional attack, so he decided to switch gears and rather worked on improving the defense. With the deadly duo of Ramos and Varane supported by the left back right back combo of Carvajal and Marcelo or Mendy, they formed a wall that was almost impenetrable. What surprised the opponents even more was the remarkable goal keeping by the Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois. His record speaks of himself as he became the only goalkeeper to keep the clean sheet in both the El Classicos after 1977.
When Real won the Supercopa de Espana in the beginning of 2020 and ended their silverware drought, fans finally sensed that something again is happening. Having already won the El Classico, they proved that it was not easy to beat them. Modric and Tony Kroos were back in form and were very well assisted by the centre defending mid Casemiro. But when football stopped due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Real were again 2 points behind arch rivals Barcelona as they lost 0-1 to Eibar-a team that was placed at the 15th position. What caused even more pain to the fans was that they lost 1-2 to Manchester City at home conceding 2 away goal again at the round of 16 stage of the Champions League.
When football returned post quarantine, most of the Madrid players were fit which included their new star Eden Hazard. Lucas Vazquez- one of the players of Madrid had already told that they have 11 finals ahead and if they win that all, they win the La Liga. Real started with a win and since then, they have not looked back. They won 10 out of their last 11 games with the last game resulting in a draw. At the end, they maintained a healthy lead of 5 points over Barcelona giving them their 34th La Liga title.
Karim Benzema ended with 21 goals and 8 assists in the season just behind the legend Lionel Messi who scored 25 goals and 21 assists in the goal margin. Sergio Ramos-the captain of Madrid who won his 5th La Liga title also managed to score 11 goals making him the Centre Back who managed to score 10 or above goals in La Liga after 1994. He even surpassed Ronald Koeman when he scored his 68th goal in La Liga becoming the highest goal scorer as a centre back in the league.
Even when all went well for Real Madrid, critics argue that the negligence of players like Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and James Rodriguez by Zidane is something which is worrisome. The lack of opportunities provided to Bale even when he was fit and considering him below Valverde, Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo is the thing that fans and critics are unable to digest. Zidane may have some different tactics when it comes to revolving of players but he has established that it is the team that can also win you the silver ware and not a single player. Benzema and Ramos may have had exceptional seasons but they were very well assisted by Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Asensio, Vinicius Jr, Isco, Varane, Marcelo and not to forget Courtois.
Having already won the Supercopa de Espana and La Liga, Real only have the UCL to look forward to. They need at least 2 goals at the Etihad Stadium against the ruthless Manchester City who are almost invincible at home. If they win, they will most probably face Juventus where fans could witness a Ramos v Ronaldo encounter but that is a long way to go.
For now, Real Madrid are the champions of Spain for the 34th time-well ahead of Barcelona who have won it 26 times. Zidane now has his second La Liga title adding his trophy tally with the Madrid as manager to 11. He has managed Madrid for over a 200 matches and has already won 11 trophies. Fans would definitely expect the same Zidane magic and Zidane Whisper to work even in the UCL which might also help them win the UCL for the 14th time and end the season on a great high.
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