Real Madrid’s dominance of the Champions League ended this past season. Los Blancos, winners of four of the last five Champions League Finals, were eliminated in the round of 16 by upstart Dutch side Ajax, 5-3 on aggregate.
The cracks had shown long before their Champions League elimination. Zinedine Zidane’s departure after the 2018 season and the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus started Real Madrid down a slippery slope of no return.
Julen Lopetegui’s hiring and Spain sacking debacle was the first of many soap operas the club endured during the season. Lopetegui lasted only 10 games and was sacked following a five-match winless run that saw Real Madrid lose four times.
Santiago Solari was appointed one day later, and despite seeing some improvements, Real Madrid showed inconsistent form. Solari did lead Real Madrid to the FIFA World Club Cup trophy, but in truth the cup is a sub-par trophy in the world of European club football.
Real Madrid sacked Solari in March despite the manager winning his final game 4-1 over Real Valladolid. His replacement was Zidane, who struggled to get Real Madrid to play consistent winning football once he returned.
Los Blancos lost four of Zidane’s 11 matches in charge, including three of their final four games of the season. Without Ronaldo, the team’s saviour for so many years, Real Madrid were a mess all over the pitch.
Now, Zidane is attempting to rebuild the fallen giants. Real Madrid have already made five new signings shelling out over €300 million. The biggest of the signings was forward Eden Hazard, who arrives from Chelsea for €100m. Hazard is a star player, but during his unveiling at the Santiago Bernabeu, supporters chanted “We want Mbappe” in reference to Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe. It was a worse-case scenario for the club after spending so much money on Hazard.
Striker Luka Jovic also arrives at the Bernabeu from Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt. The Serbian scored 27 goals in 46 matches in the Bundesliga and Europa League combined. He will now partner Karim Benzema, who is coming off of a brilliant 30 goal in 53 game season.
Defenders Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy were also purchased for a combined €98m. Eighteen-year-old Brazilian Rodrygo Goes arrives at Real Madrid for a further €45m. The amount of money shelled out shows a new era at Real Madrid. It also proves the club may have waited too long to replace some of its ageing, complacent stars.
There is no question Real Madrid must move on some of the stale players already at the club. Gareth Bale is chief among them, but his wages are a major stumbling block for potential suitors. Isco is another player that is on the chopping block as Zidane has never truly embraced the attacking midfielder. There is also reigning Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric, who flopped this season despite surprisingly winning the coveted award.
Big questions will surround another Real Madrid flop, James Rodriguez. Signed from Monaco in 2014 for around €66m. Rodriguez never held down a place in the team and was loaned to Bayern Munich for two seasons. The Germans decided against a permanent transfer as Rodriguez never hit the heights they had hoped for.
Real Madrid are in transition this summer and despite their purchases, they may still be no closer to winning La Liga or regaining the Champions League trophy. Zidane has a lot of work on his hands as he attempts to resurrect the Spanish giant.