If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
This seems to be the philosophy held by Zinedine Zidane and his staff. The best player of the U21 European Championships, one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga last year, and one of the leaders of an Alaves team that made it to the Copa Del Rey final last season —- all immensely talented young players -- did not find themselves on the field, nor even the bench, on Tuesday night. Where were they? Up in the stands of the Philip II stadium in Macedonia, watching the game in a suit and tie. A clear message sent — any player coming to Real Madrid, regardless of reputation, will have to earn their way into the defending European and La Liga champions’ squad.
There is no doubt that the club has big plans for these players, but they have to push themselves and meet the demands of Real Madrid. It takes grueling work, and players like Lucas Vazquez, Isco, Kovacic, and Asensio have all put in that work over the past two seasons. Even Theo Hernandez, arguably the most talented young full back in the world, didn’t even get a sniff of the field on Tuesday. After bringing home a resounding nine trophies in 19 months, Zidane has earned the right to call the shots. To put it in perspective, most coaches would be called a success with two trophies in 24 months.
The newcomers will gradually be moulded into the squad. Rotation, even among those on the bench, will be ever present. The young guys will have to seize every opportunity. If they come in at the 88th minute of a match, they have two minutes plus stoppage time to show Zidane and the Madrid faithful that they can have a significant role this season. Last season, Marco Asensio laid the groundwork on how to earn minutes and grow your role. He has now made himself the first man off the bench and is pushing for a spot in the starting XI. Ceballos and co. will look to follow his lead.
A statement has been made, but which of the newcomers will react best? How much patience will they have over the course of a season? Humility and hard work, two words Zidane stresses in his press conferences, will be vital to their success. If he does not see that day-in and day-out, a player can guarantee they’ll find themselves in the stands with a suit and tie.