Judgement day for Real Madrid as Zidane’s second coming begins

“It is very close,” Zidane said. “We hope he leaves soon, it would be best for everyone.” 

Bale’s agent told AFP Zidane was a “disgrace” and if the Frenchman had hoped to push the deal over the line, he would be disappointed as Madrid changed their mind over the fee.

James Rodriguez is also yet to leave and there were others that proved more difficult to bring in such as Paul Pogba and even Neymar. 

In other areas, Zidane has resisted change, backing experience over youth even if many believed experience last season had turned into apathy.

Marcelo, Casemiro and Keylor Navas have stayed while Marcos Llorente was allowed to join Atletico Madrid and Sergio Reguilon and Dani Ceballos were both sent out on loan. 

For all the talk of upheaval, Madrid’s line-up against Celta Vigo on Saturday is likely to have a distinctly familiar feel. 

Yet there could be a new formation, with a 3-5-2 tried after some underwhelming showings in pre-season, allowing Marcelo and Dani Carvajal greater freedom as wing-backs and Hazard to play centrally behind Karim Benzema. 

And a shift in focus. Madrid have won La Liga only once in the last seven years, their failures in Spain excused only by unprecedented success in Europe. 

“For us next year, the league must be our number one priority,” Zidane said in April. 

In that sense, Madrid might profit if Barcelona aim their focus at the Champions League. But the Catalans and Atletico Madrid have both strengthened and look ready to challenge again.

“La Liga is the longest competition, it’s the one that cannot be missed,” Zidane said. “I’m going to drill that in the heads of my players.” His players. Now they have to deliver. 

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