From the Managing Madrid vault, an excerpt from Kiyan Sobhani’s column after Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions League Final:
There wasn’t really ever a doubt, was there? You just know what you’re going to get with Zidane’s Madrid in Europe — an alert performance from a team that knows it can’t lose.
They just don’t care if other teams punch them in the face — their response is to shake off the dust, laugh, absorb the energy, and uppercut their opponents into space. Kroos said it best before Real Madrid’s win in Munich: “Many of our players played big games so we know how to stay calm in difficult situations because we know we can beat everyone. Even when we’re not winning we can change the game. We’ve experienced all kinds of situations so we don’t feel anxious.”
The team did not get unnerved when Liverpool pressed them for the opening half hour (or after Mane equalized and Liverpool’s press spiked into aggression again), for that matter. They did give the ball away a lot, but they never lost themselves. They took note, surveyed the pitch, and slung back. Ronaldo was not his efficient self in the final third, but he helped by dropping back to win possession. He did so right before Benzema scored — and in a moment where the team needed a goal amid Ronaldo’s lack of goals in Kiev — the French striker scored a goal he still doesn’t get enough credit for. That throw from Karius hits its target if it’s thrown around most other strikers. Not Big Benz. He was sticking his leg out in anticipation. That’s his goal — not just in the literal sense, but in every sense. He earned it.
In the strangest way possible, the domestic dud this season may have blessed, or at least fuelled, this Champions League title. Failure wasn’t an option — it would seal an irrefutably disastrous season. Winning would mask a lot. Klopp and his band of promising players, unfortunately for the German coach, were going up against an experienced team that had no option but to win. “I don’t know how hungry they are,” Zidane said prior to the match, “but we definitely want more and nobody can say they’re hungrier than us.”
“It’s fabulous. You can only admire what he’s doing,” French national team coach Didier Deschamps told Telefoot after the game.
”He was an extraordinary player and he’s already an extraordinary coach.”
Zidane will have to deal with the Bale headache (if it even is one, internally); but as much criticism we give him for not starting ‘The Alpha-Bale‘ (my favourite nickname I coined for the Bale that enters the pitch with full-confidence, looking to do crazy, athletic feats like he should be doing regularly), but Zidane has earned the right to do what he thinks is best for the team, while blocking the noise from outside.
“It’s complicated but everyone looks at themselves. I get it,” Zidane said. ”This is a squad and it’s not going to change.
”I try to do what’s best for the team and every once in a while it’s true that he deserves to play more.
”I understand who wants more minutes, Bale has made the difference. It’s normal to want more regularity, I understand.”
But it’s easy, in hindsight, to say Zidane’s subs were brilliant. There is good reason to feel Bale should’ve been in the team in the first place to prevent a rocky start, when we knew how much emphasis Liverpool would have on the flanks with four highly capable players — Mane, Salah, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson — working in sync. Right-back Modric was in full effect. Marcelo was over-hedging (almost identically to the Clasico at Camp Nou, before Sergi Roberto got sent off and Barcelona lost their right flank in similar fashion) which we knew would happen. The outlets were laborious to find. It took a defanged-press in the form of a Salah injury for Real Madrid to gain entry higher up the pitch.
I remember writing this with pure adrenaline and joy. There were so many tactical wrinkles to break down, but a story that needed to be told with it: This team just always dug deep and found a way to win over and over again. So many weapons. So much experience. So many legends. https://t.co/7Nnxjna3VA— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) May 26, 2020
Where were you when this happened?