He returns to find Madrid third in the standings and out of the Copa del Rey at the hands of Barcelona. Worst of all, Los Blancos have been eliminated at the last 16 stage of the Champions League, a tournament they dominated under his watch. One suspects that he has his work cut out in his second spell to ensure the club does not endure a similar campaign in 2019/20. What are the tasks facing Zizou?
Replace Ronaldo’s goals
Zidane’s exit last May was swiftly followed by that of the club’s all-time leading scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact, many speculated whether the former decided to leave because he knew of the Portuguese’s impending departure. Ronaldo reached double figures in the Champions League in each of his last seven seasons at Real, while his absence has also affected the club’s league form. His former team have netted just 47 goals in 27 La Liga games this season, a rate of 1.74 goals per game. This is a sharp drop from their average of 2.47 last season, while on average they are scoring one goal fewer each game than they did in their victorious 2016/17 campaign.
Karim Benzema has 22 goals this season in all competitions, compared to 12 last year, but his teammates have not pulled their weight. Zidane must find a solution, either internally or in the summer transfer window.
Make midfield effective
Since Zidane originally became the first team manager in January 2016, Real have boasted an established midfield trio. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro have been mainstays of the side throughout their spell as Europe’s finest, but there is a growing sense that it is time for them to be challenged.
Across all matches this season, the three players have provided just nine goals and 11 assists between them. As a point of reference, they have also amassed 15 yellow cards. Younger midfielders such as Marcos Llorente and Federico Valverde have found their opportunities limited, with Dani Ceballos the only other midfielder to reach 20 league appearances this season. It could be that Isco is restored to the starting line-up, having enjoyed more playing time in Zidane’s previous tenure.
Find a balanced transfer policy
The last few years have seen a marked change in Real Madrid’s approach to the transfer market, with young players arriving to little fanfare. While the club should be commended for giving an opportunity to potential stars, right now there is a greater urgency for success at the club.
Exciting prospects such as Brahim Diaz, Vinicius and Adrien Odriozola have been brought in as the club looks to the future, but the supposed established stars have failed to impress. Thibault Courtois has been the only major name to arrive since 2014, while eyebrows were raised when Mariano Diaz was brought back from Lyon to take the famous number seven shirt.
Plenty of players have been linked to the famous white jersey, particularly Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen. Considering that these players have had lengthy spells at their current clubs, this could be the right time for them to make the switch. Meanwhile, a move for either Neymar or Kylian Mbappe at PSG would truly signify the dawn of a new era in Madrid.
Recover home form
Madrid have already lost seven times at the Bernabeu this season, including all of their past four home games. Over the last ten seasons Real have lost just 28 times on home turf, and the recent troubles makes for grim reading. Last season’s total of five defeats was already cause for concern, and the manner in which Barcelona and Ajax have recently won suggests that the aura surrounding the stadium is disappearing. Zidane must reinstate his team’s confidence in front of their own fans in order to retain the fear factor.