They say you shouldn’t go back and that seems to be the general opinion about Zinedine Zidane at the moment. Ruud Gullit is the latest to chip in about this; saying that Zidane’s decision to return to Real Madrid came as a surprise to him.
Guillem Balagué also wrote about Zidane in midweek; analysing the current situation at the Bernabéu. Numerous others have offered their thoughts and suggestions about Real’s recent performance, team dynamics, the contributions of other players and Zidane’s own ability to show that he’s the man in charge.
We’re only in the month of September and already the knives are out; but football is like that. Marcelino has already gone from Valencia despite his achievements there last season and no doubt others will follow.
The start of the European games in the Champions and Europa Leagues always seems to equate to a period of change anyway and Zidane needs to navigate his way through this tricky path and get the team back to winning again if he’s going to safely come out at the other side.
Winning the Champions League for the third season running will have placed its own subtle pressures on Zidane behind the scenes.
Everyone calls for change when the team is losing but when your benchmark is something that is so difficult to repeat such as winning three Champions League titles in a row then it’s hardly surprising that both Santiago Solari and Julen Lopetegui found Zidane’s act so difficult to follow.
Now everyone is queuing up to tell Zidane that he’s not meeting the standards he set in his previous spell in charge of the club in the not too distant past.
But did he really come back to the same Real Madrid that he stunned everyone by leaving in 2018? Zidane will have his own thoughts on whether he made the right decision to return; and for the moment at least, he’s keeping these to himself.
Movements on the playing side with people coming and going will certainly have had an effect on Zidane’s options after his return. Some of these he had no control over; such as Cristiano’s move to Juventus for example and the players brought in following his departure.
Although he’s had the summer to work with the president, Florentino Pérez, in bringing in a considerable number of new faces while at the same time moving others out, Zidane still doesn’t seem to have achieved his own personal objectives on that score.
The talk is still about other high profile players that he would like to see as part of his squad at the Bernabéu and he still seems convinced that signing Paul Pogba et al is the way forward.
It was always going to be difficult for Zidane to come back to a club where such important changes on the playing side will have had such an influence on his potential to repeat the successes of his previous time in charge.
But he now has to play his cards as he sees them.
After the midweek defeat in France against PSG the game at Sevilla has taken on even more importance for Zidane since Julen Lopetugui will certainly have a point he wants to prove to Real Madrid and to the president in particular.
As a coach, he’ll bear no grudges against Zinedine Zidane and will probably even emphathise with him in his current situation.
The fact that Julen Lopetegui can draw a comparison between Zidane at Real Madrid this time around and his own short period in charge at the Bernabéu won’t make one bit of difference on Sunday.
He’ll also remember the disruption caused by the international weeks and getting new players adjusted to his own way of doing things.
Julen will identify with the ‘crisis’ whenever more than a couple of players get injured in the same week, the constant criticism over their fitness levels; and of course the never-ending speculation about being replaced by Jose Mourinho.
Whether Mourinho is waiting in the wings or not - or even Xabi Alonso if the latest rumours are to be believed - at least Zidane can take comfort in knowing that on the injury front at least the outlook is a bit more positive than it was a few weeks ago.
Marco Asensio seems to making progress with his hydrotherapy and static bike work and the soft-tissue injuries which have been the subject of so much debate in recent weeks appear to be slowly resolving; as they do.
As long as Real can avoid having anyone else pick up a longer-term injury then there’s no reason to suppose he can’t ride this current period out and get the team back to winning ways again.
If he can, then the events of the opening part of this campaign will be long forgotten by the time we get to the final stages of the season in another six months time.