Rafa Benitez undermined by 'bored' Real Madrid players and Florentino Perez, says Guillem Balague
Last Updated: 05/01/16 8:22am
As Real Madrid president Florentino Perez confirms Zinedine Zidane's appointment as manager, Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Guillem Balague looks at where it all went wrong for Rafa Benitez...
For weeks now Florentino Perez has been saying publicly that Rafa Benitez was the solution, but privately he had revealed that he was willing to sack him.
The way things are being run at Real Madrid at the moment means Florentino is in charge of everything, he is the sporting director, the president, everything! He constantly undermines the coaches by sacking them and by talking privately against them.
The question is who is responsible? First you have to ask whether it was a good choice by Rafa to come to Real at this moment in time. I think it wasn't. We are approaching the end of an era at Real Madrid.
After their 10th Champions League triumph - La Decima - they should have got rid of top players and brought in new ones in transition. For a year now - and these are the words of the president himself - the team has been decaying.
Having won just the Club World Cup since Lisbon, the team doesn't seem to care enough, to work hard enough, they are not hungry enough. They lost against Valencia at the start of the year and then lost badly to Atletico Madrid, and the trend has continued.
People who were involved in Sunday's game at Valencia, people who have seen the players close up, reckon the team looks old, a team without hunger, a team that is bored. Rafa should have calculated whether it was possible to turn things around at a club where the coach's authority was so heavily diminished by the attitude of the president. Perhaps he shouldn't have taken the job.
Rafa showed his emotion and cried when he was appointed because it was a dream come true. The truth of the matter is, though, he couldn't work with the team. I have been told by players that still back Rafa that things were starting to turn around, the team was starting to function as a team.
The fact that things haven't been working as a team for many years, and that the team was full of egos working for themselves, was very frustrating to those players who wanted to work as a team. Real were starting to show signs of functioning as team, but in the end Rafa hasn't been allowed to finish the job he started.
For me, Florentino Perez is the man responsible. As I keep saying, Real Madrid is run like a business and not like a football club, and that has consequences. If you get a group of very good players together and it works, fine, sometimes it does but it doesn't happen regularly. Two La Liga titles in 12 years proves that to be the case, and I don't think they will win the league this year.
The players have got to shoulder much of the blame as well. The president conducted a poll over Christmas in which he asked season-ticket holders who they wanted to replace Rafa. Real Madrid allowed the result of the poll to reach the public domain because the winner was Zinedine Zidane. Players were asked about Zidane taking charge and they welcomed the suggestion, and that is suspicious.
If they want Zidane as manager, they perhaps expect to have the same easy life they had under Carlo Ancelotti, a life which works for a bit but, as was saw last season when they didn't win anything, eventually stops working. The players were disciplined against Valencia in the first half hour and played really well but they could not maintain that level for 90 minutes because they were bored, because they need new challenges, because they do not believe in what is being asked of them.
Florentino has handed the job to Zidane. Zinedine Zidane is not a coach, he is a leader but not a clear leader in my mind - he leads with his career and not his personality. He can get the respect of the players but I'm not sure he has got the individual ability to run a team. He will, however, have assistant coaches next to him that should be able to do the job. Sky Sports pundit Santi Solari will be Zidane's assistant. Solari is extraordinary when it comes to his work on Revista, he has a great football brain.
Finally, there comes the matter of Real Madrid's strategy going forward. A lot of this depends on whether they avoid a FIFA-imposed transfer embargo, similar to the one Barcelona received. The long-term plan is to get rid of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. However, if there is a FIFA ban, everybody will have to stay put, and it will be interesting to see how Real Madrid deal with that.
If Real avoid a ban, they will try and bring in Robert Lewandowski, they may try and bring in Eden Hazard and David de Gea and start a new project at the Bernabeu. There will be no transition period, they'll just try to get rid of six players and replace them with six. I don't think that is the perfect way of building a team.