Real Madrid’s 2-0 win against a woeful Celta Vigo side at the Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday was not enough to confirm Zinedine Zidane as a miracle worker, but the coach will still have learned plenty about the group of players he has to work with from now until the end of the season.
The repercussions of this game and the remaining league fixtures to follow could be significant as Madrid head in to a summer of huge transition.
The natural question regarding Zidane’s return to Los Blancos is what exactly the Frenchman had to gain in going back.
Matching the three back-to-back Champions League titles he achieved in his first spell is unlikely if not impossible, and with many of the core players from that team now older and slower, a challenging restructure is needed to get the LaLiga giants back to winning ways.
But in answering the club’s call when Madrid are at their most desperate, Zidane has gained significantly more of something he didn’t have enough of even at the height of the club’s recent European dominance – power.
Power to change what were previously seen as foregone conclusions about who stays and who leaves, and power to bring in the reinforcements he believes are necessary. The kind of power that is rarely, if ever, afforded to a Madrid coach.
The evidence was already on show with the Frenchman’s first XI at the weekend.
Dropped straight back into the line-up, Isco made his first start since October 28, the Andalusian not doing so at all during the entirety of Santiago Solari’s reign, and until last week seen as a near guaranteed departure in the next transfer window. Back too was Marcelo, who was demoted by Zidane’s predecessor for youngster Sergio Reguilón. As was Marco Asensio, who only featured sporadically under Solari.
Perhaps the biggest statement of all was in goal, where Keylor Navas returned for his fourth league start of the season while a fit Thibaut Courtois sat on the bench.