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EUROPE: Real Well Beaten as Pressure on Zidane Increases

Angel di Maria scores twice as PSG cranks up pressure on the Real Madrid coach.

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid: Group A - UEFA Champions League
Zidane speaking to the media following Real’s 0-3 defeat in Paris.
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

They say never go back to the scene of former glories. Zinedine Zidane wasn’t listening.

When Real president Florentin Perez told him, should he not take the job, then Jose Mourinho would be the ‘chosen one’, the Frenchman accepted. He may be regretting that decision now.

PSG acquired their 3-0 victory last night without the involvement of any of their celebrated front three of Neymar, Mbappe or Cavani, but Angel di Maria rose to the occasion, scoring twice and at times ripping his old club to shreds.

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid: Group A - UEFA Champions League
‘Old Boy’ Angel di Maria - a huge thorn in Real Madrid’s side last evening ...
Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Ironically Keylor Navas, a more recent Real Madrid old-boy was also in the PSG team, a player Zidane wanted to keep at the Bernabeu. Recruitment and transfers have been a source of frustration for Zidane since he returned. He was promised he would play a leading role in those decisions, part of the strategy to entice him back, but execution of those decisions has been lacking. Players remain that were identified ‘unwanted’ and transfer targets did not all materialize.

He was promised there would be many changes and frankly there needed to be, as Zidane was well aware the squad required overhauling back when he somehow steered the club to Champions League success in 2018.

Zidane’s win ratio since returning to the Bernabeu is lower than 50%. Not good for a Real Madrid coach, and significantly lower than the man he replaced, Argentinian, Santiago Solari who won 22 out of 32 games in charge, a win rate of 68.8%, but still not high enough to earn the president’s confidence. Solari lasted less than five months.

Injuries haven’t helped, Eden Hazard was sidelined before striking a ball in earnest, but much chopping and changing of players and tactics, strongly suggest Zidane does not have a clear mind of the way forward. Other observers claim he is trying to prove a point by showing to the hierarchy how he needs to manage with a squad devoid of the players he wanted, and containing some he did not.

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid: Group A - UEFA Champions League
Eden Hazard, falling like Real at Parc des Princes during last night’s Champions League match, has not enjoyed the healthiest of starts to his Real Madrid career.
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Zidane’s obsession with bringing in compatriot Paul Pogba, a project that always looked doomed, not least because Manchester United never had any intention of selling him, while Perez never seemed all that interested, does not look good on the coach. Real had agreed terms with Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen and Ajax’s Donny van de Beek, but Zidane stopped those moves because it was Pogba he wanted.

The general opinion emanating from the Bernabeu is that the relationship between Zidane and Perez has deteriorated, a division perpetuated by their differences over Pogba and Navas. Perez is also said to be frustrated at the lack of game time for some big-money signings, as uncovered by the BBC’s Guillem Balague.

Zidane cannot be happy with the state of affairs either, and Madrid media close to the president are beginning to highlight criticisms of the coach, a potentially career-threatening phenomenon.

Enter Jose Mourinho?

Back in 2015 when Rafael Benitez was struggling at the Bernabeu, Perez approached Mourinho to discuss a return to the club. Three players remained at Real at that time who had previously caused problems for the Portuguese: Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas.

“Get rid of them,” Mourinho said, “ ... and we can talk.”

Two thirds of that trio have departed and Ramos after 14 years at the club has not received the offer of a contract extension. Mourinho remains unemployed.

Could it be that ...... ?