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A LOOK AT LA LIGA

Real Madrid, a club in crisis?

Zinedine Zidane, on Tuesday.
Zinedine Zidane, on Tuesday. / EP
  • On paper things look bad for coach Zinedine Zidane, but a few wins in the next month could soon paint a different picture

It had to be asked: "Zinedine, are you considering resigning?"

It was a fully justified question to a Real Madrid manager who had just followed up a defeat to one of La Liga's lesser lights by losing to one of Europe's lesser lights.

The journalist wouldn't be following protocol if he didn't question Zidane's mindset at the most testing of times for the Spanish giants. Sitting fourth in the La Liga standings and third in the almost-completed Champions League qualifying group is very concerning and may trigger a few hundred white handkerchiefs if they were allowed inside the stadium.

There's no way he'll resign though. Firstly, no manager resigns these days - otherwise they lose rights to compensation. Secondly, it would be a very premature act.

If there was a ready-made replacement available, then the president may consider making a change. But all the possible candidates are employed elsewhere or have already had a stab at the job.

So, Zidane stays. There is a bizarre scenario where Real can draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach next week and both clubs will go through. However, it's simple, win and the Champions League will be a thing in the spring.

It has been written that Real would rather finish bottom of the Champions League group than third, which would qualify them for the Europa League. That is football's equivalent of going from the top table at a lavish banquet to the sell-by shelves at the local supermarket. Where they dine is totally in their own hands.

In the league they are seven points off the top which does look bad, but they do have a game in hand on two of the teams ahead of them. Between now and Christmas they face two of their main rivals, Sevilla and Atlético; the domestic season can be shaped in the next few weeks.

This is the time for Zidane to dig deep into his managerial experience. In normal times, the club would have replaced Cristiano Ronaldo with another 'galáctico' long ago. A decade ago, Kylian Mbappé would have headed to the Spanish capital rather than that of France. Erling Braut Haaland would have been signed as the replacement for Karim Benzema. Sergio Ramos wouldn't be the ageing rock on which the foundations are built.

Replica shirts for both players would be flying off the shelves of the Bernabéu club shop. Instead, the club are investing in renovating the stadium and balancing finances in the midst of the pandemic.

The president is preoccupied with the administration of the club - leaving the coach to manage his department.

It's up to Zidane to get his tactics right and motivate his millionaires. Sergio Ramos thinks he can fight Conor McGregor but needs to concentrate on battling with Spanish strikers. Eden Hazard must find fitness; he's been unavailable for eight games this season and hasn't yet shown signs of justifying his almighty price tag.

If they win - or even draw with Gladbach - and beat Sevilla, Atlético and then Athletic Bilbao, this period will be seen as just a little turbulence.

If they lose any of the first three of those games, then it's more than turbulence and Zidane needs to think about using his parachute.