It’s a well documented saying in the salary-cap driven NFL that once you gather a group of extremely talented players, you simply can’t pay everybody and a similar situation is unfolding at Real Madrid with Zinedine Zidane simply finding it a case of not being able to play everybody.
Los Blancos are on the cusp of an unheralded achievement in the modern era with Zidane’s charges having the opportunity to become the first team to retain the Champions League since its well documented reformat in 1992.
A first La Liga title since the Jose Mourinho era also beckons as the Frenchman appears to have got a total handle on a club that for the majority of the current millennium has consistently disappointed.
Unhappy rotation players
With that said, the club will face an uncertain and unusually challenging summer transfer window starting from the final whistle in the Cardiff showpiece against Juventus with a number of first-teamers unhappy with their rotational roles this term.
To build a team capable of retaining Europe’s most prestigious club competition then you certainly need both quality and depth in equal measure.
If you look at Manchester United’s run to consecutive finals in 2008 and 2009 it is important to remember that Sir Alex Ferguson had the luxury of being able to rotate in almost like-for-like quality.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s talent aside, the veteran Scot was able to draft in the likes of Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov depending on the situation. Park Ji Sung was an incredibly reliable option as was John O’Shea in defence.
Now the difference between this great Manchester United squad and that which currently bewitches regular visitors to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu is that United’s second string were perhaps outperforming their own ceiling of ability.
O’Shea and Park were talented but it wouldn’t be unfair or untrue to suggest they were at best correctly seen as rotation options. They would have been guaranteed starters at most other Premier League teams aside from the then top-four.
An embarrassment of riches — may not be a good thing
Real Madrid of 2017 are rather different.
Zidane’s rotation options are James Rodriguez and Isco, two majestic footballers who would quite simply walk into any other team in football, let alone their own domestic division.
Such has been Florentino Perez’s investment in quality since his return to power in 2009, the team is now an embarrassment of riches in almost every position and whilst this has created the conditions for success it also threatens to be a major problem in the summer.
Under normal circumstances it is Real Madrid who are the proverbial sharks lurking in the waters of the annual summer transfer window ready to pounce on any other teams’ stars as soon as they get a sniff of blood, yet it is Perez and co who will have to fight to keep players this summer.
Alvaro Morata, Isco and Rodriguez have all made clear their discontent at the number of minutes afforded to them respectively this term with Morata arguably the most vocal given the fact he only rejoined the club last summer on the premise that he would be given the chance to seriously battle for the starting number 9 spot, which hasn’t happened.
“Did I expect to play more? Sure, but I’m always ready for the coach when he needs me and that is the most important thing,” he explained.
Rodriguez has found first-team opportunities limited to domestic matches against far inferior opponents or when the French coach has needed to rest his starters as a result of fixture congestion.
Isco on the other hand may be the most agonizing situation of the bunch.
The Spanish midfielder is supremely talented and absolutely idolized by the Madridistas but it seems as though he is forever set to be just behind Gareth Bale in the pecking order at the club despite the fact they are a better, more fluid team with the former Malaga playmaker in ahead of their record signing.
Both Rodriguez and Isco are 25 years old whilst the former Juventus forward is a year younger at 24. They are approaching the prime years of their career and they are all acutely aware they have the talent to be regular starters across the continent.
Rotation policy a necessity, but can prove unsustainable
Zidane’s well documented rotation policy has in part been necessary as a result of the vast amount of matches they have had to play this season, as well as needing to keep Cristiano Ronaldo from suffering his almost annual physical deterioration once April arrives.
By the time the clash with the Italian giants concludes on June 3, Real Madrid will have played 60 competitive matches this season, there has been an absolute need to use multiple players.
Ronaldo on the other hand has seen his fitness and lifestyle micromanaged in order to ensure he is fighting fit for the decisive months of the campaign and we are seeing the results of that with the Portuguese forward hitting his best form of the year of late, looking as healthy as ever.
This however is unsustainable and despite significant efforts to tie Isco down to a new contract it is highly likely clubs will present offers for the trio of players mentioned and Los Blancos have to decide whether they can afford to turn those offers down in order to keep rotation options at the club for a further year.
As we have seen with the departures of Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil, prising a player away from the Spanish capital is never an easy task and it often drags on late into the transfer window.
If this was the case when the club wanted to move the two aforementioned individuals on willingly, one can only imagine the negotiations that will have to take place when Real Madrid desperately don’t want to sell.
On the back foot
For once, the Madrid giants find themselves on the back foot and if they do allow any of the three to leave replacements will need to be brought in.
Yet you quite simply won’t find replacements of the same level who are willing to come in and play a rotational role and thus it is expected that after a potentially groundbreaking season of success for the club, a rebuilding process may have to begin this summer far earlier than anticipated.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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