Zinedine Zidane’s first spell as Real Madrid manager was almost resemblant of a thirty month caretaker role. During that time, there was hardly any big transfer activity and Zidane was tested more on his management of the dressing room than on his ability tactically or at rebuilding a squad. There’s no denying that Zidane’s first tenure was among the most successful spells that any manager has ever enjoyed, but the one upcoming will be a better judge of his managerial quality and ability to replicate that success in other situations.
Madrid’s current situation will ask tough questions about Zidane’s capabilities at overhauling a team and defining its tactical approach, two things he did not entirely prove in his first tenure. During that previous spell, Zidane got much of his success by exploiting his team’s strength in crossing. At the time, Madrid had the best pair of fullbacks in the world in Carvajal and Marcelo along with possibly the best player ever at scoring off crosses in Cristiano Ronaldo. However, with Ronaldo at Juventus and Marcelo well below his previous level, that same pattern of play is unlikely to be successful.
Additionally, the type of players Madrid are rumored to be interested in also suggests that Zidane will need to craft a different approach for the team this time around. The likes of Hazard, Neymar, and Eriksen are all players that thrive in a more technical and possession based system than what Madrid played when Zidane was previously in charge. Players already in the squad such as Vincius and Isco are also suited to that type of game.
In terms of rebuilding the squad, Zidane had been able to put it off until last summer when a disagreement over how to do it contributed to his departure. With many aging stars and a huge transfer budget to work with, Zidane will have all the tools to go about it over the coming transfer window. Sir Alex Ferguson was the master of this, but many other great managers have often struggled at how to overhaul a squad that has won so much.
For clubs outside of Real Madrid that have looked at Zidane as a potential manager, his success at revamping the squad is definitely something for them to look at. However, after winning so much in his last tenure, if he can achieve more success in a completely different set of circumstances, it would do wonders for his status as a manager.