A Real resurgence

Vinícius has started a dozen consecutive games.
Vinícius has started a dozen consecutive games. / EFE

  • The start of the season might have been rocky for the Champions League winners, but things are slowly coming together again

Let's get this straight. I'm sticking by my early season prediction that Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City will contest the Champions League Final... but Real Madrid are beginning to do that thing again!

I witnessed a footballing masterclass at the Etihad last Sunday when the artistry was right up there with Pep Guardiola's Barcelona teams. They have taken English football to another level. Liverpool's best chance of winning the Premier League is City prioritising the elite European competition. In my view, City can take their pick.

If they're not drawn together, I think they are destined to face the wealthy French club. PSG are more mature, have a top-class coach and are not as reliant on Neymar as they were twelve months ago. The Brazilian was absent this week, yet they swept aside Manchester United.

They're the two favourites, but coming up on the outside is the thoroughbred. It's hard to believe that a club that lost twice to CSKA Moscow could be considered as worthy contenders. Six days after they limped past Viktoria Plzen in October, Julen Lopetegui was put out of his 138-day misery. It appeared that Santi Solari was just holding the fort until a headline name was appointed.

Spin forwards four months and Solari is managing with authority and Real Madrid are being spoken about as credible contenders.

He's made some big decisions and it's paying off. Vinícius Júnior is well ahead of schedule for what everyone expects will be a classic career. Consider that he is a true millennial, born in the year 2000 and it's quite scary. Solari's given the Brazilian licence to express himself with a dozen continuous starts. He's weighed in with four goals and six assists and appears to be a fixture for years to come.

His development is a contrast to Gareth Bale's stalemate. Liga fans haven't warmed to him as he's failed to learn the language and outwardly embrace the culture. He did score his 100th goal for the Spanish giants last weekend and gave his doubters the Spanish equivalent of the "up yours" gesture. The problem was that he'd misread how to mime the gesture - even that was lost in translation!

Another of the establishment is also struggling hold down a place. Marcelo seems to have been around an absolute age yet he's still only thirty. His name has been one of the first on the team sheet since he signed thirteen years ago. Now, Sergio Reguilón, has emerged to displace him.

It's hardly a revolution at the Bernabéu but changes are being made. My theory that the prominent club can't be reliant on a single player applies to Real Madrid now that Cristiano Ronaldo has vacated his throne. It has taken a long time to readjust to life without his influence, but the King has gone, long live the new King.

It's not unlike Zinedine Zidane's first season at Real Madrid when he slowly turned things around and it ended up in glory. History could be repeating itself, history could be made, if they claim a fourteenth European title and their fourth in a row.