The writing is on the wall for Santiago Solari.
It was etched in pencil following Real Madrid's Copa del Rey ouster at the hands of Barcelona. It was traced over in Sharpie after a second home loss to Barcelona in four days effectively ended Real's already-slim chances of winning La Liga. It was covered over by a fresh coat of paint after Real's Champions League exit, an utter humiliation at the hands of Ajax that ended the club's three-year reign and sealed its first time missing the quarterfinals in nine years. The club has lost four straight at home and appears to be in just an absolutely miserable place.
If Florentino Perez's track record is any indication, Real Madrid's second coach this season will be fired, whether it's before or after the club's match Sunday at Real Valladolid. And that hardly makes any sense.
It's not that Solari, who was seen as a stopgap upon his hiring as interim manager, has accomplished anything close to what meets the club's standards. He should go, at the end of the season, when the chance to pull the plug and chart a planned course for the future presents itself. But as Dani Carvajal so blatantly put it following the Ajax defeat, the "season is over."
There's nothing else to play for at this point, aside from securing a top-four finish in La Liga and ensuring a spot in next season's Champions League, which requires nursing an eight-point edge over Deportivo Alaves with 12 games to go. If Real Madrid can't do that, even with a lame duck manager and with no matches against Barcelona or Atletico Madrid remaining, then how was Solari judged to be worthy of a two-year extension just four months ago in the first place? How many coaches does Real Madrid want to wind up paying this season?
The reports in Spain suggest that the club is eyeing the sensational return of either Jose Mourinho or Zinedine Zidane, which speaks to both its desperation, its cluelessness and its inability to take the time necessary to formulate a plan. For starters, there's little that either can do in the remaining 12 matches that provides any upside. Chasing Mourinho is chasing the ghost of a manager whose methods have proven to be dubious at best despite being backed by incredible spending power over the last four years–and didn't really bring the return Real Madrid was expecting from 2010-2013 in the first place.
Zidane, meanwhile, left on his own terms after Real's third straight Champions League title under his watch, because he saw what was coming. Why would he want back in now, knowing what he knows and seeing what he's seen? He doesn't owe the club a thing.
Mourinho, in recent comments made to The Telegraph, claimed: “I don’t want an internal conflict. I want internal empathy. I want to work in a club that understands there is a structure in place. I don’t want to work in a structure of no coincidence [unity] in the thinking. ... I want to work with people that I love. People I want to work with, that I am happy to work with, with whom I share the same ideas. I don’t want to be in a permanent contradiction [conflict] between what I think and the others think. It was what I had at Inter. There are clubs like this. Normally, that is a very important part of a successful club.”
Mourinho's words have proven to be lip service before, and perhaps the aura of Real Madrid and another opportunity to show he can still excel at a European powerhouse, even in a reported interim position, would be too much to turn down. But what he described is not Real Madrid.
If anything, this last season has shown Real Madrid the downside to its knee-jerk tendencies and its all-knowing attitude. It thought it could pry Julen Lopetegui from Spain without any consequences, and it torpedoed both Spain's World Cup and the club's start to the season. It thought it could get away without properly replacing Cristiano Ronaldo, and yet there's been no Ronaldo-type to bail the club out of tight situations on European nights as in years past. There is an impressive young core of rising talent at Real Madrid, and the future should be bright at the Bernabeu. There are moves the club should make in best interests of both the near and long term. But making a managerial splash for the last dozen or so games with no real upside is not one of them.
Solari will go, and rightfully so, but instant action doesn't really do much for Real Madrid's immediate future.