Rafa fired by Real Madrid

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It came as no surprise to those that followed soccer that Rafa Benitez was incapable of taking a club like Real Madrid to the heights that they were capable of.  The Spaniard had been failing up for a considerable amount of time, and has proven that his best days are at the helms of middling clubs that he can bring up towards the top of the pile (i.e. Napoli/Valencia).  With Madrid, the players and the task at hand always seemed to be a touch out of Rafa’s reach, with the axe coming in swiftly to end the time of the only manager with a winning percentage under 70% in the last decade.

After bringing in a manager that seemed doomed from the start, the club has now turned to a Madridista legend in Zinedine Zidane.  

For Madrid, the risk is completely minimal.  Zidane brings a recognizable name to the helm, Benitez can be blamed for any issues that stand for the remainder of the season, and it is possible that the French manager could be ridiculously successful for Los Blancos.  The biggest risk might come from some of the players with the biggest egos.  There are quite a few players on the Madrid roster that, at least from an outsider’s perspective, would not enjoy the manager having a bigger spotlight and fan-base than someone actually out on the pitch.

For Zidane, the risk is massive (but the possible reward is substantial).  By taking his first major managerial gig with such a massive club, anything short than success would hurt his chances at staying at this level of management.  Yes, the 2015-16 La Liga season can constantly be blamed on anything that Benitez did during the first half of the season, but any Champions League failures will probably be placed directly at the feet of Zidane.  However, any type of success that he brings Madrid will skyrocket him into the pantheon of elite managers.  With his first job, Zidane could be rubbing shoulders with Guardiola, Ancelotti, and Mourinho.

The first few matches will be very interesting to watch for any fan of the club.  Where Rafa seemed incapable of making his preferred starting 11 clear, Zidane would do well to bring his no-nonsense attitude to his team selections.  It will also be a time to see if Zidane turns to the youth of the club or continues Madrid’s dependency on a host of players nearing the backside of their primes.  This will definitely be apparent in whatever transfer moves occur to and from Madrid, as a wealth of Madrid players are currently rumored to be on their way out of the club.  

For the average fan, we just love seeing one of the best players in the history of the game back in the limelight.  Zidane brings a level of recognition with the fairweather fan that other managers are incapable of creating.  Perhaps a headbutt on the touchline is somewhere in the cards…but…maybe not.  The other side of the coin is whether Rafa can find himself another decent job.  As a Liverpool fan, I’m quite glad that he wasn’t free when LFC was on the hunt for a manager as I worry the 2005/6 romantics would desire Benitez back at the helm.  If Benitez wants success in the future, his best options would be a club that typically finishes between 5-10 in one of the major leagues.

No matter what happens, Madrid definitely becomes even more interesting to watch.  Considering they typically field a squad worth nearly 1 billion dollars, that is certainly impressive.  The era of Zidane never ended…we hope that it continues to be as amazing with him on the touchline as it was with the Frenchman on the pitch…fingers crossed.


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