Real Madrid fought to the end, literally to the final seconds of the season, but it wasn’t enough as Atlético Madrid won the LaLiga Santander title to leave Real Madrid trophyless for 2020/21. Despite the lack of silverware, there were a few positives from this campaign and some reasons for optimism when looking to the future. Here, in this macro version of ‘Three answers and three questions’, comes a look back at what questions the 2020/21 campaign answered and at the doubts that linger as we look ahead to 2021/22.
1. Could Real Madrid defend their LaLiga title for the first time in over a decade?
The last time Real Madrid won back-to-back league championships was 2006/07 and 2007/08. So, could they do it again this year, again winning a competition that Zinedine Zidane considers the most important? Well, they made it a lot closer than it seemed at one point, going undefeated across the final 18 matchdays, but in the end Real Madrid fell just short.
2. Would anyone step up and help Benzema?
For me, this was the big question coming in to the 2020/21 campaign. Karim Benzema has been a goalscoring machine in the post-Cristiano era, but he hasn’t had much support at all. In the first post-Cristiano season, of 2018/19, Benzema was the top scorer with 30 goals and second-top was Gareth Bale with 14. In 2019/20, Benzema led the way with 27 goals ahead of second-top Sergio Ramos with 13, a similar difference. But then, this year, Benzema came up with 30 goals and this was 23 more than anyone else managed, as Marco Asensio and Casemiro finished joint-second-top with seven each. Benzema needs support. He deserves it too.
3. Would Lucas Vázquez out-stat Eden Hazard?
This question comes from our Managing Madrid 2020/21 season preview, during which we were all asked for a hot take or bold prediction. Mine was that, due to Eden Hazard’s injury issues, Lucas Vázquez would play more minutes, score more goals and provide more assists than the Belgian. Well, Lucas had 2,770 minutes to Hazard’s 886 and eight assists to his one. But, Hazard did have more goals, with four compared to Lucas’ two. Still, this prediction more or less turned out to be right and, as I explained when I made it, it was because of a complete lack of confidence in Hazard’s fitness. Going into next season, I don’t have much more confidence…
1. What to do with Eden Hazard?
Speaking of Hazard… if we thought his 2019/20 was just a one-off blip, then 2020/21 proved it is something more serious and more long-term. He simply cannot stay healthy and, even when he is able to play two or three games in a row, he hasn’t done much more than a few nice flicks and, every few months, the occasional goal. So, what do Real Madrid do with Hazard now? After his post-Chelsea giggling, many jumped to conclusions and cried “sell him now!” but that’s unrealistic. There is no market for him, unless he has an excellent Euro 2020. So, if he can’t be sold, then how to Real Madrid rediscover his spark in 2021/22? That’s the hardest question to answer.
2. Who will be Real Madrid coach next season?
Is Zinedine Zidane leaving? Is he staying? What’s going on? There have been conflicting reports over the final weeks of the season about the coach’s future, while he himself dismissed all talk about his next moves in his press conference appearances, instead insisting that he simply wanted to focus on trying to win LaLiga. The season is now over and this is the biggest question mark we have. Even though Los Blancos didn’t win anything, Zidane surely won’t be sacked. The decision is his. But, is he ready to move on once again? Only he and a handful of people actually now the answer to that.
3. What happens with the loanees?
Real Madrid had a lot of players go out on loan this season, eight in total. I’d split them into three categories. Those who had really good loans, which is Brahim Díaz and Borja Mayoral. Those who had so-so loans, with some highs and some lows, which is Gareth Bale, Martin Ødegaard and Luka Jović. Then, those who had bad loan experiences, namely Takefusa Kubo, Jesús Vallejo and Reinier. What happens next with them? This is going to be a huge part of Real Madrid’s summer planning as they look to cash in on certain names and consider whether others merit a place in the first-team squad for next season.