The date was June 3rd, 2017. After joyously belting “Hala Madrid Y Nada Mas” for the fourth time with hundreds of fellow Madridistas at the Playright Irish Pub in New York City, the time had come to revel in this glory back home. Back-to-back Champions League triumphs, what seemed simply unfathomable, had been achieved. As I made my way out of the bar, a hand grabbed my arm, “Man, you will tell your grandchildren about this day. We are experiencing history, just enjoy it, enjoy it brother.” When I sat back to think about that statement, I began to recognize the magnitude of the victory. Books will be written about Zidane and his team, video montages will be replayed time and time again, and the best part, it could not be unwritten. Each Champions League triumph will be etched into the mind of Madridistas for all their lifetime. The Champions League trophy is the essence of the club and the lifeblood of the fans. There was no beating this emotional high.
Five months on and Madrid fans have been on a rollercoaster ride. There were early lows; a lacklustre preseason, and the loss of fan favorites like Pepe, James, and Morata. The lows have been followed by some highs; the master class performances in both Super Cup’s over Manchester United and Barcelona and the influx of bright young talent like Theo Hernandez, Dani Ceballos, Jesus Vallejo, and Marcos Llorente into the squad. As of late, the rollercoaster has been spiralling down as the team looks to claw back an eight point lead from Barcelona in La Liga and lick the wounds from a rampant Spurs victory at Wembley. What has gone wrong? Fans and pundits alike will give you a laundry list of reasons — lack of depth/poor summer recruitment, Zidane’s tactical ability, Benzema and Ronaldo’s poor goal scoring form, selfish play from talented youngsters, bad luck, and on and on the list goes.
So what is the solution for a Madrid side that went from unbeatable and fear inducing to predictable in a matter of months? The solution came to me from a third party source. Taking in a premier league double header with an old friend, the conversation inevitably found its way to Madrid. Before my buddy gets a word out, I say “Let’s not talk about it, I’m still recovering from the loss to Spurs. We aren’t looking great right now.” My friend, a Chelsea fan, brought a refreshingly objective perspective: “Yeah, but you guys are Madrid, it’s November, you will be fine.”
He’s right. Fans across the world still fear this Madrid team. They know it’s just a matter of time until that rollercoaster returns to its tracks on a steady incline.
Karim Benzema, for all the frustration, will come good. The same for Ronaldo, and Marcelo, and Bale. Form is temporary, but class is permanent. These are three time Champions League winners, two time La Liga winners, two time Copa Del Rey winners, two time Club World Cup champions, and the accolades, both individual and group, run on for a reason. Often forgotten: players are not robots. Unlike video games, their stamina, physical problems, and mental focus cannot be recharged by the click of a button. Performances like that against Girona or the tactical beating laid out by Tottenham are not excusable. But defeats happen, dips in form happen, negative moments happen, and they have happened in every single season Real Madrid has ever played.
The question now is, will this team respond? My answer would be a resounding yes. These players are still the best in the world, and five months has not changed that fact. Zidane is still the best manager for this job and will lead the team to more glory. Five months has not changed that either. Stability and persistence is the answer. Madrid may not even come out on top in the coming Madrid derby. Tactical restructuring and players’ form don’t come to be overnight. It is often said, the toughest thing for a winning team to do is to keep winning. To try and maintain that level from Cardiff will be this team’s biggest challenge. But five months on and they know what it is to lose that feeling, to go from hero to zero. If I were a betting man, I’d put money that these recent run of bad results will only fuel the fire for Zidane and his team. Fortunately, as Cristiano adeptly reminded everyone after the Spurs match, nothing is won in November. The club, from Pintus to Zidane and from Ronaldo to Florentino, they all do their talking at the end of the season, when trophies are won.