Toni Kroos is not expecting any quick fixes to happen for Real Madrid this year – despite the club spending more than €300 million on new transfers.
Los Blancos have brought in Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, striker Luka Jovic from Frankfurt, Lyon left-back Ferland Mendy, Porto defender Eder Militao and added another exciting Brazilian in 18-year-old Rodrygo this summer.
It is a pointed response to a miserable campaign last year in which their glorious Champions League run came to an emphatic end against Ajax, while they finished 19 points behind Barcelona’s pace in La Liga.
Zidane could not arrest the slump when he took the reins back over in March – and a repeat of last season’s performances will be untenable.
However, Germany midfielder Kroos admits that rediscovering the form that led the club to three successive Champions League titles will be no mean feat.
“It is not easy to take the team back to where Zidane left it, it is difficult to reach that level.
“Our team was in a different situation when Zidane returned in mid-March of 2019 compared to when he left the team in May 2018,” Kroos told German Magazine Kicker.
“We want to play better football, and more consistently. That’s important because, after you do that, the rest comes by itself.
“If you play better, you’ll be in the fight for the titles.”
Despite their spending splurge, Real have been hampered by several injuries during pre-season, not least with the news that Spain forward Marco Asensio is expected to miss most of the campaign.
Jovic, who scored 25 goals for Frankfurt last year, also had a minor setback.
But Kroos added: He has integrated well. He had bad luck with the injury.
“Jovic is an option who will make us stronger with what he is best at: scoring goals.”
The 2019/20 campaign represents a massive season in the career of Zidane having crafted his own side at a massive expensive.
Glaring holes defensively have appeared in their warm-up clashes, though, with the team’s disjointed pressing game coming in for criticism.
However, defender Dani Carvajal is refusing to press the panic button and is adamant the French boss is ready to thrive next season.
“Zidane is crucial, just as he was during his career as a player and also during his first tenure as our coach. I hope he can be as successful during this second stint,” Carvajal to Omnisport (h/t ManagingMadrid.com).
“Our coach is more prepared than he’s ever been, he’s got experience and his stripes and he didn’t have that before.
“He has the respect and confidence of every single player and that’s the first thing you need to go far as a team.”
Carvajal also went some way to explaining their travails in pre-season so far.
“Coach is trying new players, new systems, a little bit of everything. Our goal is to get to the match in Balaidos with the best odds to win the game,” he explained.
“Every year is more exciting than the previous one, that’s how you have to feel it. If you want to be remembered as a great player you have to reset every summer break.”
One of the most active clubs in the transfer window, Real Madrid have splashed out €303 million on five big names. Los Blancos have strengthened their attack to a whole new level with the addition of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.
Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy constitute their defensive arrivals, but no midfielder has been signed by the club yet – despite consistent links with Paul Pogba and Donny van De Beek, and the departures of Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos.
A glance at the list of incoming players, however, suggest that Madrid may have taken massive strides towards the rebuilding of a world-class squad. We take a deeper look at the side, grade the different departments and assess their transfer activity.
Goalkeeper – B+
Thibaut Courtois and Keylor Navas are currently the two goalkeepers at the club. As Zinedine Zidane has already alluded to, the 2018 World Cup Golden glove winner is likely to replace Navas as the first-choice goalkeeper for the season.
But the pair’s showings from last season and the pre-season indicate that this could be a huge mistake. Despite turning 33 this coming December, the Costa Rican is still in pristine condition with his reflexes undiminished.
Madrid arguably have one of the best goalkeeping duos in Europe but their success will largely depend on how Zidane plans to use them. He must start with Navas and phase the veteran out only when the Belgian earns his spot.
Defence – B
The Spanish giants could have done better in strengthening their central defence, which was their weakest link from the woeful 2018/19 season. Raphael Varane was average at best and Sergio Ramos had a disastrous season, sprinkled with only a few moments of brilliance, though neither should be written off after one poor season.
Eder Militao was added to the roster from Porto but it’s unlikely that the 21-year-old will be thrown into the starting line-up immediately. Nacho would work as a fair back-up centre-back and a makeshift right-back. But the Spaniard lacks the consistent quality to make Varane or Ramos work for their spot.
As for Madrid’s full-backs, Dani Carvajal has at least a couple more years at the top level and Alvaro Odriozola has shown enough quality to function as a back-up.
Marcelo is on a decline and is more than ever a defensive liability, but Los Blancos have captured a clear successor in Mendy, who sparkled at Lyon.
Midfield – C
An aging Luka Modric just can’t start every game for a top club like Madrid. The lack of flair and creativity in midfield was visible last season and the Spanish giants have not taken any measures to rectify this.
As it stands, Zidane has just five options in midfield, with Isco and Fede Valverde adding depth to the aforementioned players and Casemiro, with Marcos Llorente now at Atletico and Dani Ceballos on loan at Arsenal.
While Hazard will add some much-needed creativity to the side, the 13-time European champions are bound to face issues in deeper areas in midfield.
Zidane’s side are likely to find it difficult to set the tempo and build the play from midfield. The arrival of Pogba is more of a requirement than a luxury at this point. The Frenchman could be the missing jigsaw in Madrid’s puzzle – and Van De Beek adds star rotational power.
Attack – A minus
The attack would have received an A+ if not for the lingering doubt that too many cooks could end up spoiling the broth and the injury to Marco Asensio.
Madrid have listed as many as nine attackers in their 2019/20 squad. Lucas Vazquez could be sold, but the mega-money outcast in Gareth Bale remaining on the books is a distinct probability.
Vinicius Junior, Brahim Diaz, Rodrygo are likely to form the promising band of rotational players as Hazard, Karim Benzema and Jovic forge the front-line, with misfit Mariano likely to be sold.
An injury will see Asensio sidelined for most of the season and despite the depth that is a blow, as he was the front-runner for a right-sided role in attack.
Rodrygo impressed the most in pre-season, adding more substance to the hype surrounding his transfer and even playing from midfield. Should Vinicius manage to churn out end product from his promising runs on the wing, his influence on the team could be immense.
Madrid have the potential to be one of the best attacks in Europe in terms of substance and squad depth. Ultimately, it all falls to how the manager utilises his players.