Real Madrid win La Liga
It has been little over a year since Zidane returned to the Real Madrid hotseat. Los Blancos were in a crisis - the core that had swept up silverware looked to be finished, a mass rebuild seemed not only inevitable but also necessary. Little over a year later, much of the same squad remains - yet Zidane has returned them to the summit of La Liga.
Whilst the glitzy sight of a trophy is always welcome - this has been far from the ideal ride for Real. However, despite the bumps in the road - and there were plenty, there is an undeniable feeling that something is being built here. Zizou may not have gotten Paul Pogba and unwanted stars, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez also remained on the books. In spite of all this, the Frenchman has truly gotten the best out of what he has, even if it wasn't ideally what he had in mind.
Throughout the backend of 2018/19 and into pre-season, nothing seemed new about Real. They limped to the end of the campaign, before a very inconsistent preseason which was compounded by a 7-3 drubbing at the hands of Atlético Madrid. It seemed a very long and painful transition was the inevitable future - with fans seemingly feeling like Real would look something similar to post-Ferguson Manchester United.
The club had welcomed the signings of Eden Hazard, Eder Militão, Luka Jović and Ferland Mendy. They proved to be effective business on paper, however, Hazard was the main headlining name who would be undisputed in the starting XI. Few would have predicted how things would have turned out.
During the campaign, there was still a heavy reliance on the old-guard - the new signings struggled to fit in at first. Things were far from ideal, Real were hardly performing adequately in the league and in the Champions League? Their fortunes were even worse.
Come October, Zidane's head was on the chopping block. A miserable loss at Son Moix to Mallorca - followed by a must win game in Istanbul to keep their Champions League hopes alive. In short, had Zidane failed to adapt, he could very well have perished before Christmas.
As the new year struck, there was a significant shift. FerlandMendy had taken over Marcelo's starting spot. The Frenchman has shown to be a defensive stalwart, being dribbled past just 0.2 times per 90, whilst completing the same amount of tackles as Sergio Ramos. It is his assured presence that has allowed Real to become the strongest defence in Europe's top 5 leagues.
Their defensive strength is something that has become a key factor in Zidane 2.0 - Real has consistently been a team about attack flair. They have long been the face of the 'you score one, we score two' mentality. However, Zidane was aware this would be impossible to continue. Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Real's goal scoring exploits have certainly weakened.
In the Frenchman's first stint in charge, Real never scored anything lower than 90 goals in the league. In the 18/19 season? That figure fell as low as just 63. Even this season, Real have scored 70 goals in their victorious campaign - 30% of those goals coming from Karim Benzema.
What Zidane has done this season is create something new. Gone is the era of individual brilliance that often led Real to their success - there is now a renewed sense of collectiveness. The team not only now defends together, they also attack together. Los Blancos has seen 21 different players get on the scoresheet this term - a Spanish footballing record.
For all the brilliance of the players within this squad, the leadership of Ramos, the steeliness of Casemiro, the relentlessness of Fede Valverde, the cool control of Toni Kroos and the brilliance of Benzema - 12 months ago, none of this was occurring.
That original European conquering core was considered to have aged out, Fede Valverde was just a name in the academy. Amongst the top 10 players with the most minutes this campaign, 9 of them were already here before, the tenth? the left-back that Zidane chose.
Zizou has previously openly stated his desire for a shift in culture at Real Madrid. The Spanish club and those involved in it are famed for their obsession with the Champions League. Zidane, however, prefers the long and hard graft of a league title: "We have to change this idea, this habit. Champions Leagues are 12, 13 games; the league is 38; pam, pam, pam, every day. That will be our main objective."
Often called a great 'man manager,' the former World Cup winner has once again stuck it to his detractors. Not only has he turned Real around, he's changed the focus, he's implemented a new system and he has Real looking every bit the big club we know them to be.
The players certainly deserve credit for their mammoth efforts. However, their resurrection likely wouldn't have been possible under anyone else. He has taken what looked to be a broken squad, made the necessary tweaks and now has them firing again. When LaLiga restarted, they came in 2 points behind Barcelona. When it was all said and done, Real won the title whilst being 7 points ahead, having never been behind and winning 10 games on the spin. Grande Zizou.