Real Madrid’s season has been nothing short of a disappointment to fans, players, and the board alike. There may be different opinions as to why it is was a disappointment. But, as a fan of other sports teams, I know winning trophies every year is unlikely, and in my opinion that isn’t why this season has been a disappointment.
The team amassed 68 points in the league with a terrible run of games to finish out the campaign with Zidane in the dugout. (Yes the man who won the Champions League three times running.) This was the lowest point total in the league since the 2001-02 season.
As Real Madrid fans we are used to winning and not just winning but winning with fashion, swagger, and beautiful attacking football. Sometimes the scores lines would get out of hand, and as a Madrid fan, some of those games were the most exciting. The team wasn’t always the most solid at the back in these efforts, but we would win the game with the message of “If you guys score three then we’ll score five.” You can go look through the game logs of seasons past and these score lines pop up sporadically. This squad from this season didn’t posses this swagger — they didn’t have much swagger at all.
There are always ways to make up for a disappointing season — the team could’ve win the Champions League (like last season); or they could beat Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in big, important games. This team gave us none of this, barring one occasion of beating Atletico at the Wanda. It’s sad that the greatest victory for many Madridistas this season was Barcelona getting beaten by Liverpool, but I am not the type to celebrate rival’s failures, just my team’s successes.
On top of everything, Madrid had its chances this season to have success, but the team bottled it. We had Barcelona on the ropes in the Copa Del Rey, but the team couldn’t finish the job after being the better team over the two legs — but sometimes that’s the way the sport works.
Another chance was the Ajax tie. Sergio Ramos had a lapse in judgement and got suspended, and that is where the wheels started to come off. That strategy had worked for Ramos in years past, but as the team’s captain, we needed him to realize this season is not like past seasons. The team struggled when he wasn’t in the lineup. His back-up, Nacho, who had been a revelation in years past was not up to Madrid standard this year, which was odd after he had a fantastic World Cup.
And finally, the team only accumulated 68 points throughout the year, tallying a total of 18 losses across all competitions. This was a major disappointment especially with the standard of football in La Liga this season not living up to years past. To add fuel to the fire, Barcelona won the league easily, with the biggest gap between the two teams in history, and could grab a double with a win over Valencia in the upcoming Copa Del Rey final.
Before I dive into the reasons the season was a disappointment for me, I want to divulge into the successes of the season. The youth movement started by Solari was a huge success. From Vincius to Llorente to Brahim Diaz, the youth have been a revelation after a miserable season.
Solari showed faith in younger players in big matches and the kids repaid his faith and displayed some of the best performances of the season. Vinicius with his blistering pace and dazzling runs; Llorente filling in for Casemiro and doing a better job them him while covering for the fullbacks when they were caught high up the pitch and being more press resistant; and we can’t forget Sergio Reguilon ,who showed consistency at the left back position when Marcelo was out of form for much of the season. Lastly, Brahim Diaz, who wasn’t a revelation under Solari, but knew if Zidane would have even given him a chance to play, he could impress.
Real Madrid Castilla getting into the playoffs for Segunda B is another success. If somehow Castilla can be promoted into Segunda, that would be good for Real Madrid as a whole. They now won’t need to loan out players to other clubs in Segunda to make sure they are playing at a higher level than Segunda B. There is a huge difference in talent between Segunda and Segunda B.
The last success of the season is the loanees. Odeegard was amazing this season, winning Vitesse player of the year voted by the fans of the club. Oscar was a big part of a Leganes side that over-performed this season, and their offensive production revolved around him connecting the defense and midfield to the attack. Hakimi triumphed in the Bundesliga this year — doing enough to win CAF young player of the year for 2018, and two Rookie of the month awards in the Bundesliga. Another success: Raul De Tomas amassing 14 goals for lowly Rayo who find themselves going back down to Segunda. These are just a few of the success stories this year for the loanees. Though not all lived up to expectation — yes, I am referring to you Mateo Kovacic and Theo Hernandez — with the good comes the bad.
With the little success Real Madrid had with the season (as noted above not much with the first team), there were many reasons for disappointment. The first being the revolving doors of managers. This is never good for a club. The results are in the pudding. First it was Lopetegui, who unfortunately never had a chance. His style of play wasn’t loved by the fans — they, at times, saw pointless passing.
Then Solari — who wasn’t even successful with the B team — come into the dugout from Castilla. Solari didn’t bring much to the table for the squad, but he brought a mindset to the club that was needed after Lopetegui. Its his way or the high way. And his stint was the most successful part of the season. It wasn’t pretty, and Lopetegui was missed, but good results were happening, and we almost took down Barcelona and Ajax with him as manager, — but in the end we didn’t, and by the end of his tenure the season crumbled.
Lastly, Zidane came back to manage the squad. He wasn’t my first choice, but he was near the top of my list. Now, this is the worst the team has looked all season. There was no drive within the squad and Zidane could be seen visibly frustrated with the team on multiple occasions. The revolving door of managers at this fantastic club needs to stop, and I have never experienced so many different styles and identities in such a short time at the club since I became a fan.
The second reason this season was a disappointment was the lack of drive from the team. Many players lacked the Madridismo that they showcased in seasons past. The definition of ‘Madridismo’ can vary, but for me it is a love and driving force for the club — having that never say die attitude. Very few players in the club showed their love for the club this season and didn’t show any drive to continue with the team.
Isco, for example, who on multiple occasions has mentioned that he doesn’t want to leave the club, knew he would out-last Solari. And with this, problems were created between the two, and Isco never respected Solari as a manager. In consequence, we lost a very good, incisive player for a majority of the season because Isco thought he was bigger than the club. Which he is not. No player is bigger than this club, you don’t have to like the manager, but you must respect him and his decisions and if you don’t, you are disrespecting the crest.
I want to see players on the pitch who know the crest on the front is more important than the name on the back. I want players at the club who give their all to become one of the greats — to etch themselves into the history of the biggest club on earth. When you score, its not about you — its about the fans and that crest on your jersey. I want to see you kiss that crest, celebrate with heart, and give your all for the club. And if you don’t, we don’t need you. We will find somebody who will fight for that crest. You are a warrior for this club and if you don’t love this club as much as this club loves you, if you don’t want to play for the crest on the jersey, then we will find you a new club.
The third and last reason this season was a disappointment was the play of the team. Not only did they lack the drive to play as a unit for the greatest club in the world, but they lacked the beautiful football the club demands. Real Madrid is not an easy team to play for. I love winning trophies as much as the next Madridista, but I can get over not winning games, and not winning trophies if there is beautiful football involved — fluid attacking football.
This club was built on these ideologies back from the Santiago Bernabeu Yeste days. We saw it in attacking football days of Puskas and Distefano, all the way to the Galaticos, and to the feared BBC. We lacked that this season. We need to get an attacking scheme in place and not rely so heavily on an 18-year-old Vinicius (who is amazing by the way). As stated, I miss the shoot outs of old, and I miss the high score lines of Madrid games. Initially that’s why I fell in love with the club — because of the team’s ability to score at will. aAnd though its not realistic to have this every game of the year, the squad didn’t produce a single high scoring game this year. I do appreciate being stable at the back,but its nice to go out there and see four different guys get on the score sheet. That flowing attacking football is in Madrid’s DNA and it is something that hasn’t been a part of the club all season long.
Long story short, this season has been a disappointment to all Madridistas across the world. There needs to be changes to the squad and Zidane is promising them. They may not come to fruition for two or three years, but changes need to be made and as a fan, I am happy to know Zidane realizes that. There are tons of rumours going around, but we have no clue who will be here and who will not. Some players have made good impressions and others haven’t, but its Zidane’s squad to build and we have to trust him and the process that comes along with it. Fans cannot deal with another season like this one. This squad needs a revamp and Zidane is going to be the man to do it, and if Florentino Perez won’t let him, then he’ll leave. It was a rough season, but next season can’t be worse.