Is history an eternal restart? The question must trot in Zinedine Zidane’s head. The fate of the Real Madrid coach is partly dependent on the results of his team, which receives Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Champions League this Wednesday, December 9. Victory is imperative to qualify for the round of 16, a formality that the Spanish club has fulfilled without firing a shot since 1997.
Zidane on an ejection seat
Except that a more distant look into the past can give the tricolor strategist a cold sweat. Madrid-Mönchengladbach, the poster knows only one antecedent in the most prestigious of European cups, in 1976 in the quarter-finals. The first leg in Germany ended in a 2-2 draw. Same thing on the return, but 1-1 this time and with two goals denied to the Germans, including a non-existent offside. Real just pass, with the difference in away goals.
Bis repetita this year ? In the first leg, the result was in any case similar (2-2), with an identical scenario, the Germans leading 2-0 before the Spaniards equalized. Lady! Is a 1-1 draw on Wednesday written in advance? Zinedine Zidane is quite superstitious. But he blurted out at a press conference last week: “I feel strong in finding solutions with my players. “
The solutions, however, he seeks in vain for the moment. Madrid have conceded nine goals in five group stage games, the worst defensive record in club history in this competition. His choices discussed as never before, the coach knows he is in an ejection seat.
Barcelona hit a bad slope
On this European front, the situation is quieter for the other big Spanish house, FC Barcelona, in the round of 16 even before their last duel against Juventus Turin, Tuesday 8 December. Its walls are cracking in La Liga. The league title seems to have already flown this year, with the club pointing 12 points behind Atletico Madrid, who prances in the lead.
Barcelona have actually been going downhill since the start of 2020. “Barça” finished last season without a title (a first since 2013) and with humiliation on the European scene, the terrible 8-2 in quarter-final against Bayern Munich. The episode revealed a latent unease, accentuated by the feuilletonesque desires of Lionel Messi, and provisionally concluded with the resignation of President Josep Maria Bartomeu on October 27.
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The two Spanish giants are actually going through a fairly similar crisis. Financial first. Madrid and Barcelona had planned a development to match their prestige. The coronavirus has been a game-changer. Over the 2019-2020 season, the Covid-19 generated 91 million euros in losses, the capital club has just announced, 97 million on the Catalan side according to an audit disclosed in early October. Budgets for this season are down on both sides by around € 200million.
Major consequence: the two clubs have limited their payroll. Especially Real, whose summer transfer market has resulted in a total lack of arrivals, for nearly 100 million euros in sales. Barcelona has allowed itself some shopping, but the arrivals-departures balance also indicates some 100 million savings.
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Problem: without real renewal, the two clubs count on faltering numbers, like two stars of the locker room. Real and Zinedine Zidane bet big on Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard in the summer of 2019 (nearly 160 million euros). But injuries have since followed and the player, still unavailable today, was only able to ensure thirty games out of more than the double possible.
On the “Barça” side, Antoine Griezmann has struggled to integrate since his transfer to 120 million euros in July 2019. Others, present for ages, seem to be out of breath.
In both clubs, a spring, especially, seems broken. The aura around Zinedine Zidane who, since his return, is no longer on the pedestal from which he dominated the Casa Blanca during his triple consecutive European coronation (2016, 2017, 2018); the magic around Lionel Messi, this year far from his usual fireworks (only four goals in ten games), and which leaves some doubt about his future. The two old houses on the eve of a major facelift? Nothing can be excluded.
Lionel Messi gets wanted
He wanted to leave, he had to stay. Suffice to say that since the soap opera of his true-false start at the end of the summer, Lionel Messi does not shine as usual in Barcelona. His case maintains the fair of rumors, which announce it here and there according to the statements of each other.
Neymar put a coin back in the machine last week swearing he wanted to play with the Argentinian again ” next year “. By bringing him to PSG? By joining him in Catalonia? Lionel Messi lets say, probably waiting for the election of the next president of Barcelona, scheduled for January 24, 2021, and the project presented by the new elected. For all candidates for the job, keeping Messi at home is a priority.