Football is a funny old game.
It is driven by data and stats and ever-evolving technique in the modern day but emotion runs parallel even in the highest realms of the sport.
Exhibit A would be back when Real Madrid hired Zinedine Zidane for the first time as the manager of the club. It was prior to the modern day custom of hiring club legends back to coach teams and Zidane’s appointment was certainly driven more by the heart rather than strategy.
What followed was simply football’s surprise element at its very best. Very few could have predicted that Zidane would succeed at such a monumental level – he won the league, the Copa Del Rey and became the first manager in the history of the game to win three back to back Champions League titles.
It put him on a pedestal and his success allowed him to become the first Real Madrid manager in over a decade to leave the club rather than be given the boot. Little did he know, that it would be that very same success which would turn on him as it has to threaten his job.
It all started of course when Zizou, decided to return to the club for a second spell and he was already carrying the heavy chip on his shoulder of living up to the unreal expectations of what he achieved as a manager in his first spell.
Given the manager’s past, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez handsomely backed Zidane in the market by spending over $300 million in the transfer market.
Delivered with all possible tools to succeed again, Zidane’s team fell flat on their face. What saved them the last drop of embarrassment was the league title victory which was less of a credit to Zidane and more of failure to succeed from FC Barcelona, who as a club have entered their most challenging phase in over two decades.
It papered the cracks for the time being but Zidane never really got the new team to play winning football and the lack of rhythm is proving fatal this season.
Atletico’s resurgence under Simeone has seen Real fall behind in the league table and the misery has now been compounded after back to back defeats in two domestic cup competitions.
The exit in particular from Copa Del Rey to Alcoyano, a third-tier team has brought to the foray the extent of the dismay on display at Real Madrid.
While, it did not technically result in damage for Zidane in the Champions League group stages, his team found barely scraped through to the top of their group and the lack of fluency to progress was made noticeable to teams who no longer see Real as the same threat they did earlier in Europe.
Naturally, after the exit to Alcoyano in the Copa Del Rey, Zidane’s situation has worsened and his fate now hangs by a thread. They take on Alves next in La Liga and the club legend will know its not just about the result he delivers but also the manner in which he does it – for if any club ever needed to deliver a statement, it would be Real Madrid and it would be now.
Let us hope, for the sake of the emotional side of the game, Zizou delivers, for anyone who loves the game will not want the French legend to be another bygone in football.