In mid-June, Real Madrid entered the La Liga restart two points behind first place Barcelona. Now, come mid-July, Real Madrid are La Liga Champions with a game to spare. How did Los Blancos complete such a big turn around in a season that looked to be heading down disappointment road? Three reasons; their veteran core, Barcelona’s lack of determination and Zinedine Zidane.
There were concerns when Cristiano Ronaldo left last year to join Juventus in Italy. How could Madrid compete with the likes of Messi and Barcelona without their own superstar? Too little credit was given to players like Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos who have been with the club for over a decade. Those two alone put Madrid on their backs this season, uniting an already talented roster of other veterans. Rafael Varane, Luka Modric and Casemiro all have been with the club for 8 years or more. Marcelo has been with the team for over a decade as well.
Barcelona Lack of Determination
There is no doubting the talent on Barcelona’s roster, but something has been missing this season from the Cantalan side. Leo Messi knows it. After his side lost on Thursday, which played part in Madrid clinching the title a game early, Messi shared his thoughts on the campaign.
“This game represents the entire year. We have been an erratic and weak team,”’ Messi said in the TV interview after their 2-1 loss to bottom dwellers, Osasuna. “Madrid did its part by winning all its matches, which is impressive, but we also helped them to win this league. We have to be critical of how we have played, starting with the players, and the rest of the club. We have lost because of our mistakes and not because of Madrid’s successes, as many say. The feeling on this team is that it tries, but that it cannot get the job done. The fans are running out of patience because we’re not giving them anything. If we want to fight for the Champions League, a lot has to change. Like this, we will lose to Napoli.”
Zidane left Real Madrid when Ronaldo left. They had been winning title after title in the Champions League with a few other league titles sprinkled in as well. Under Zidane, Madrid was perhaps the best team in the world. When he retired and Ronaldo left, the club went into turmoil. They went through three managers in the span of a year, and were searching for answers. When Zidane decided to return, it brought a level of credibility back to a talented locker room. Madrid don’t do anything special in terms of play style under Zidane, nor have they demonstrated a great track record of developing young players. However, with the French legend at the helm, they have desire, they have grit, and they grinded out result after result.
Real Madrid’s Impressive Run
Los Blancos has not dropped a single point since La Liga returned, winning all 10 of their matches. Benzema and Ramos have been instrumental, scoring over 10 goals combined in that span. The title is their first in three seasons, and just their third in 12 years. However, it is their 34th in club history, the most of any team in La Liga. Next up for Real Madrid is a Champions League, 2nd leg against Manchester City in August. Madrid trails 2-1 in the aggregate having conceded two away goals as well.