After a five-year hiatus, the La Liga victory surely tastes sweet for Real Madrid

Published: May 22, 2017
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Real Madrid celebrate after winning La Liga at the La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga. PHOTO: REUTERS

The immensely talented Spanish giants, Real Madrid, have finally gotten their hands on the coveted La Liga trophy, which is a title they have cherished the most over the past few years.

Real Madrid feel ‘broken’ after losing late lead in Dortmund. Photo: Reuters

From the very beginning of this season, it was absolutely clear that Real Madrid were very keen on tasting some domestic league glory as the La Liga title had eluded them since 2012 and this is precisely what Zinedine Zidane and his boys have achieved after a stellar season.

Zidane’s influence

After Real Madrid sacked Rafa Benitez earlier last season, the club was in utter shambles and lacked direction. The induction of Zidane as team manager has turned out to be a revelation for the Los Blancos. Zidane may not be the best coach in the world, but he has what it takes to bring out the best from this side.

Throughout the season, Zidane managed the squad in a fine manner which ensured that, despite the lack of minutes for some very talented players, he kept everyone happy and moved forward as a well-knit unit. This is something managers at the helm of Spanish football have not been able to achieve over the past few years.

Deportivo’s Gael Kakuta (right) and Real Madrid’s Danilo in La Liga action. Photo: Reuters

Real Madrid currently possess the best squad in the world which can be seen from the fact that nearly every player can be a part of the final 11 on any given day. This is a blessing in disguise, but not for the manager, as it makes it incredibly difficult to manage such a fine squad. But to Zidane’s credit, he has done extremely well in order to keep grievances arising at a bare minimum, and his side is hence bearing the fruits in shape of some trophies.

The sublime Cristiano Ronaldo

In the middle of the season, many considered Ronaldo to be a declining force and talks of life beyond CR7 at Real Madrid intensified, but then again, it is just impossible to count out a player of his calibre. Towards the end of the season, be it La Liga or the knockout stages of the Champions League, the Real Madrid talisman has once again proved that he is a force to reckon with by being consistent on the score sheet.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema back for Real Madrid. Photo:Reuters

Some part of the credit of Ronaldo’s stellar form goes to Zidane, who rotated the player efficiently and took good care of his fitness, which in turn has ensured that he is in perfect shape for the pinnacle of the season. He may have scored fewer goals as compared to some of his counterparts, but he definitely brought out the goods when it mattered most.

Only a catastrophe towards the latter part of the year will strip Ronaldo of another Ballon d’or title and he is most likely to level things up with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi with five such honours to his name. A win in the UCL final against Juventus in early June will put a stamp on this issue.

Alarcón Suárez (Isco) and the deadly midfield

The Welshman, Gareth Bale, missed the majority of the campaign due to an injury. Being an integral part of the BBC (Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano), this was quite a blow. However, Isco’s amazing form ensured that there was nothing to worry about.

Isco’s creativity in the midfield, breathtaking touches, and the ability to not let go of the ball easily has surely been one of the reasons why Real Madrid have been crowned champions. With Isco moving freely behind the strikers, the Real Madrid side looked far more balanced and threatening moving forward.

Isco of Real Madrid duels for the ball with Emre colak. Photo: Reuters

With the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in the flanks and Casemiro in a holding position, the midfield looks deadly with a startling accuracy to find the right pass almost certainly. Kroos and Modric hardly ever misplace a pass and are tactically extraordinary, especially when the side is under pressure. They keep the side composed and move the ball around in the midfield in an expert fashion.

Keylor Navas back in the groove

A couple of months ago, Navas was in all sorts of trouble with nothing going the Costa Rican way. His form considerably dipped and he made some rather embarrassing and fatal errors, which brought the reserve goal keeper Kiko Casilla in the mix and also increased talks of bringing Manchester United star David De Gea to the Spanish capital as his replacement for future games.

Keylor Navas could make his first start of the season for Real Madrid. Photo: Reuters

With the odds stacked against Navas, it was extremely satisfying to see that he regrouped himself and got back into the groove right at the opportune moment. Especially during the last month, with Real Madrid eager to win the title, he has been in his best form the entire season and made some truly incredible saves to deny rivals breaking through.

He might still be replaced for the next season, but it was great to see that this notion has not shattered his focus and motivation.

The pairing of Marcelo and Carvajal

Real Madrid is truly blessed to have two of Europe’s finest full backs in the shape of Dani Carvajal and Brazilian Marcelo. The duo has been one of the reasons why Real Madrid has been so consistent this season.

Their pairing has been super clinical all season long and has converted attack into defence on various occasions which has resulted in numerous goals for the Whites. The bursting runs from both Marcelo, down the left, and Carvajal on the right, has made life so much more difficult for opponents who find it ever so difficult to defend against a side with defenders who have such an aggressive advancing nature.

The B-Team?

With Zidane’s rotation policy in play, it was seen that Real Madrid went with two radically different line-ups in the league and UCL on numerous occasions. Although some might call this their B-team, it was pleasant to see that the quality hardly ever dropped, and on occasions this side played even better than the perceived starting 11.

Marco Asensio (centre) is joined by Alvaro Morata (left) and Marcelo. Photo: Reuters

The likes of Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio etc ensured that there were no let downs whenever they were called upon to spur their magic. Morata scored 15 goals in La Liga this season and had the best goal scored per minute ratio in the squad, which is a staggering achievement considering he made such less starts. Here it is interesting to mention that the more regular striker, Benzema, had just 11 strikes to his name.

What’s next?

Now that La Liga is in the bag, Real Madrid will look forward to defending their UEFA Champions League crown against Juventus. Although no side has ever been able to win the UCL twice in a row in the open era, but Real Madrid has the ability and is on track to defy all odds to be crowned champions once again.

Muneeb Farrukh

Muneeb Farrukh

The author is a freelance sportswriter based in Karachi. He tweets as @Muneeb313_ (twitter.com/Muneeb313_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.