Calm and class

Zidane was an active part of Sunday’s title celebrations.
Zidane was an active part of Sunday’s title celebrations. / Reuters
  • Zinedine Zidane has created a harmonious squad and is consequently drawing envious looks from Barcelona

In the end it was the “Quiet Man” getting tossed up into the night air like a rag doll and later doused in champagne as he addressed the press.

Zinedine Zidane has swung the balance so dramatically in his short tenure that Barcelona may have to tear up their famous blueprint and concede the power has shifted for the foreseeable future.

Champions League title in his 27th game - tick, Club World Cup for Christmas - tick, La Liga title in his first full season - tick, next the first domestic and European double in 59 years.

He doesn’t attack the opposing manager with words or a sly push, he doesn’t parade along the touchline, he rarely makes any memorable statements. Shankly used to make the people happy, Zidane just keeps the players happy.

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored less goals, played fewer games, been left at home and even substituted yet his ego is well and truly massaged. Every player has been given playing time and 21 of them have weighed in with goals this season. It is a shared success. Zidane has created harmony where previously there was acrimony.

He really doesn’t need to improve the squad and hardly anyone will want to leave this celebratory group but there will be inevitable movement.

The President has resisted a ‘galáctico’ signing for a couple of years and he will be keen to have his picture taken with the latest platinum addition. I expect David De Gea fits the bill. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the current keeper Keylor Navas but De Gea is Spain’s number one and will be for many years.

De Gea’s signing would fulfil the wishes of Florentino Pérez while Zidane would be calling for cover at centre back, for the ageing Pepe and the ball-winning department of midfield where there’s little cover for Casemiro who is going to collect cards and knocks as an occupational hazard.

Real may not have to invest at all if Diego and Marcos Llorente return better players after their loans to Malaga and Alavés, respectively. Lucas Vázquez, Dani Carvajal, Nacho Fernández and even Álvaro Morata were similarly schooled in Madrid before furthering their education elsewhere; returning as more complete players.

How the tide has turned. A few years ago Barcelona was the club that promoted from within and was lauded for their academy, now this is the club that is going to spend heavily to play catch-up.

It reminds me of the time when the Johan Cruyff era ended and Bobby Robson took over. Two decades on and it appears that Ernesto Valverde is the wise older head who will be asked to bring calm and organisation to the Camp Nou.

It could be argued that Barça’s best was better than even Real Madrid’s but the problem was lifting themselves for the so-called easier games. Their four damaging defeats came against Alavés, Deportivo, Celta and Malaga. Ninth-placed Alavés were the top ranking of these lesser lights.

To quote the 80s pop group The Human League, you have stood the test when “your worst is better than their best”.