Zinedine Zidane has become “damaged” ever since making his Real Madrid return, says Spanish football expert Guillem Balague.
Real re-hired Zidane in March in light of a disastrous season under two different managers in Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari.
Los Blancos had crashed out of the Champions League last-16 stage and lost to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-finals. They also found themselves 12 points adrift of their rivals in La Liga.
But not even Zidane could inspire a comeback, with the Frenchman winning just five of his 11 matches in charge of Real. Hence, the club finished a staggering 19 points behind La Liga champions Barcelona.
Following a humiliating final day 2-0 home defeat to Real Betis, though, Zidane promised that there will be a different Real next season.
The 46-year-old’s bold vow undoubtedly comes in light of the substantial backing he’s set to receive in the summer transfer window.
However, Balague fears the damage has already taken its toll on Zidane. The Spaniard reckons Real have clearly shown signs of lacking any real energy and hunger recently.
Furthermore, the pundit questions whether Zidane is truly the right man to rebuild the Spanish giants.
“I would be concerned if I was a Real Madrid fan, because what I’m seeing is a team lacking in energy, lethargic, lacking in hunger,” said Balague on his YouTube channel.
“Big decisions will have to be taken. Can Zidane take them?
“They have renewed [Toni] Kroos, so he is staying. But how about Isco? How about Marcelo? How about Marco Asensio? Yes, he’s young, but has he given enough to the side? He probably will stay, I think he will.
“But Isco and Marcelo, really? You still want them? Modric, is it the time to sell him? You’ve got Brahim [Diaz] and you’ve got Vinicius and Rodrigo is coming, so is [Eder] Militao.
“So they’re kind of sorted in the centre-back position. But everywhere else, they just need something else.”
Balague added: “They have been a tired bunch. 18 defeats all season, 19 points away from Barcelona – simply not good enough but it follows a trend, a trend of not working hard for the league.
“Zidane says this is the priority next season. We will see because he’s been damaged as well.
“This is a team that the projection of which would have been 58 points, which takes them I think to the Champions League as fourth with the percentage of points that Zidane was getting.
“If it had been [Santiago] Solari, 83 by the way. They would have been second to Barcelona. So Solari is the coach that understood better what was going on.
“Because [Julen] Lopetegui understanding what was going on was not able to actually make his impact, and also his projection would have been 53 points.
“Transitions are always difficult, so that’s my justification for Lopetegui’s poor start. But Zidane, I just don’t understand what he’s been trying to do, ‘cos really the side has not replicated what he wanted.
“As he says, the way he trained it seemed like they will play a good game and then they just don’t, and he looked very clueless, if you like, when he actually was saying at the end ‘it’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that we can’t. I don’t know’ he said, suggesting he doesn’t know exactly why.
“He’s never done this, he’s never rebuilt a side. He’s never started, not from scratch, but certainly with a bunch of new players.
“He took a side that was very good and a side that the likes of Rafa Benitez had identified needed certain things like Lucas Vazquez and Casemiro in the middle, and basically Zidane continued with that platform and you know what he did of course.
“The last three Champions Leagues have been won by Real Madrid, but it’s in the league where they’ve been lacking.
“So the plan is to change all that and you know the names that they’ve been talked about.”