There was one word that Zinedine Zidane kept repeating in his post-match press conference on Saturday: ‘jodido’ – the polite translation is ‘screwed’ the less polite ‘f***ed. He was talking about how his players felt about losing the last match of 2017 against Barcelona in such emphatic fashion.
He could easily have been talking about his own situation going into 2018 with just the Copa del Rey and the Champions League to play for and having seen his masterplan against Barcelona’s Ernesto Valverde so comprehensively taken apart.
Only a week ago that the French coach became the first Real Madrid manager to guide the team to five trophies in a calendar year but things change quickly as coach at the Bernabeu – he had taken certain gambles that simply did not pay off and when the inquest is carried out on this game he may well take much of the blame.
His opening gambit was to replace the creative Isco in his starting line-up with the more destructive Mateo Kovacic. The plan was that Kovacic would stop Sergio Busquets coming out with the ball and also look to smother Leo Messi whenever Barcelona did manage to build an attack.
The plan worked in the first half but Kovavic was nowhere to be seen when Barcelona scored their second goal created by Busquets sweeping out of defence.
‘The defeat really hurts’ said Zidane. ‘I know I will been giving a lot of criticism tomorrow but I will have to take it; I make the decisions.’
As well as the Kovacic plan not working, Isco never got a kick in the game. Real Madrid’s most creative player would maybe have been introduced late on but because of Dani Carvajal’s sending off Zidane choose to throw on defender Nacho to cover the loss of the full-back instead.
That is also likely to be thrown back at him. Why at 2-0 down put on a defender? Could he not have gone to a back-three? His voice was a little more tense than usual in the post-match press conference. It was raised too, as if the louder he said what he had to say the more it would make sense.
Madrid had gone down without a fight. Their old ability to pick teams off on the counter-attack seems to have deserted them and it is now they that suffer as sides slice through them with very few passes.
‘If we had taken our chances in the first half it would have been a different game,’ lamented the manager. ‘Just as I wanted to make the changes we conceded again and we had a man sent off.’
There is no suggestion that Zidane’s job is in danger. He has just delivered the World Club Cup – a fifth trophy in 2017 but there is an uncomfortable scenario on the horizon.
What if Madrid fail to get past Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League? It’ s feasible that the club that blew everyone else out of the water during the last transfer market proves too much for them in February. That would leave Madrid just with the Spanish Cup to contest because no-one expects them to make up a 14 point gap in the league even with a game in hand.
More likely than Zidane being dismissed is perhaps the arrival of one or two new players in the winter window. Athletic Bilbao keeper Kepa is on his way but after a fine display from Keylor Navas the goalkeeper position is not a the pressing problem.
A move for a striker is likely to be what the crowd call loudest for. Karim Benzema still has just two goals all season and one of the loudest noises on a rather flat early afternoon in the Bernabeu was the sound of him being whistled as he was substituted. It had been a bad day for him, for Madrid, and for their coach.