Real Madrid Have Cause for Concern After Series of Friendly Defeats Against European Powerhouses
It is the 4th of June 2017, the Real Madrid players and staff have just rolled out of bed after a long night of partying following the back-to-back Champions League victories, something which has not been done by any club in the modern era since the prestigious trophy was revamped in 1992.
After a dominating 4-1 crushing of Italian giants Juventus while also pipping rivals Barcelona to the La Liga crown, Los Blancos are on top of the world; iconic former player Zinedine Zidane earned a promotion from Castilla manager in January 2016 to take arguably the highest pressured job in world football, and he has done magnificently well to steer the club to their 12th European trophy, while ending the four years of dominance in Spain from Barcelona after claiming La Liga last term.
Now comes the hard part, how do you improve a team that is not only champions of Spain but repeat champions of Europe?
After only signing promising winger Dani Ceballos from Real Betis and French left-back Theo Hernández from city rivals Atlético Madrid so far, Los Blancos are simply looking to the future after highlighting their strength in depth these past two seasons while also demonstrating the talent at their disposal.
However, with defeats already to Blaugrana, Manchester United and Manchester City in pre-season, the alarm bells are starting to ring around the Spanish capital that they need to evolve with the times or risk being left behind. A host of first team players such as Portuguese duo Fábio Coentrão and Pepe, James Rodríguez on loan and Álvaro Morata to Chelsea for £60m have already departed the club, leaving a large hole in the first team squad.
Last season Zidane did an excellent job of managing his resources, balancing the team on a weekly basis by placing the emphasis on squad importance over individual talent. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo were even convinced to sit out games against smaller opposition to be fresh for the important matches. Spanish stars such as Isco, Marco Asensio and Morata played an influential role from the bench to maintain squad fitness.
Now with a number of those players already out of the door, Zidane and the board of directors have a massive task on the hands in the next month to replace the squad fillers with talent that can deputise when injuries or suspensions crop up. The performances against Barcelona and Manchester City were particularly worrying, as the 12-time Champions League winners looked erratic in defence.
The French manager has insisted he is 'not bothered' by the outcome of the defeats as he instead points towards preparation for the 8th of August, when they face Manchester United in the European Super Cup. Nevertheless, three defeats to some of the biggest teams in Europe show that much work lies ahead before the season officially starts.
With the future of key front men Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema still in doubt, Real Madrid are planning for a team with the future in mind as they currently chase French striker and teenage sensation Kylian Mbappé. The Monaco sensation is reportedly open to a move to Madrid, but the Ligue 1 champions are holding out for a fee beyond €150m for the lightning-quick forward.
If Real Madrid can lure Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabéu this summer, a front three of Ronaldo, Mbappe and Bale or Isco could dominate domestically and in the Champions League once again. However, Zidane knows football can change in an instant and the popular club will have to work hard this season to ensure their rivals do not leave them behind.