Just seven days ago, Real Madrid’s world came crumbling down.
The team had already lost any chance of winning the LaLiga title and fell to Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey so the only competition left was their beloved Champions League. Yet, the football God’s had a change of plans.
Just last week, Santiago Solari’s side was knocked out of the Champions League in the Round of 16 at the hands of an exceptional Ajax team. With the loss, (which was their earliest exit from the competition since 2010), there was nothing left to play for.
But regardless of the failed results on the pitch, there is still a little over two months of football left and how Madrid approach the next few months will be key to next seasons fortunes.
Everyone knows at the beginning of the season Real Madrid was struggling, but by the time the bout against Ajax came around the team was virtually unrecognizable. Yet even after their elimination from the European competition, the team should ideally strive to finish strong but of course, that is easier said than done.
After the early exit, it seemed as though there was no more spark in the squad. You could see from both their form and attitude on the pitch during the league game against Real Valladolid on March 10 that they are no longer invested in the rest of their matches.
So what’s next? How should a team approach the remainder of their season when they already wrote it off?
Well, simply put, the answer to that question is this: the players (especially the younger ones) should be focusing entirely on developing their individual abilities.
Now don’t misinterpret the point here, the team will and should always come first but, the remaining 11 league games serve as a very early pre-season training session and every player should strive towards developing their game.
From here on out, the team and coaching staff will have the opportunity to address and re-evaluate arguably Real Madrid’s worst season in history and get a head start on next year’s campaign.
This means that drastic changes could be taking place, one of which may be the re-evaluation of the entire roster.
It is without a doubt the era of a dominant Real Madrid is over. The world relished in the club’s successes over the past five years but the players who conquered all the competitions are getting older so things have to change.
Club President Florentino Perez is one of the few individuals who already understands what has to be done in order to get back Real Madrid back to their winning ways and that is bringing in new talent.
The abilities of players such as Sergio Ramos (32), Marcelo (30), Luka Modric (33), Toni Kroos (29), Karim Benzema (31) and Gareth Bale (29) are still valuable to the club but they are slowly fizzling out.
So now, given the early end to the season, there is no better opportunity for younger players, such as Sergio Reguilon (22), Marcos Llorente (24), Brahim Diaz (19), Marco Asensio (23) and Vinicius Junior (18) to fight for playing time and work on becoming better.
The re-introduction of Zinedine Zidane as head coach is hoped to have a positive effect on the players and his one-on-one interactions within the next few months will be key to developing a better start to the 2019/2020 season. Add in some possible transfers (like Eden Hazard or Mauro Icardi) and next season is already looking brighter.
It’s an uncomfortable time for the club so given the circumstances, it is extremely important that the players do not slump back into misery but rather push themselves towards developing their individual abilities.
The early end to the 2018/19 season serves as a wakeup call that it is time for Real Madrid to settle back into reality. Football is a game where winning is not always guaranteed and rising from defeat is a crucial part of it.
The players must find the will to work towards transforming back into a powerhouse club for the 2019/20 season and the amount of downtime they now have will help prepare them to do just that.