Football

Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez has a huge rebuilding job on his hands

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2014 was a year of unprecedented success for Real Madrid. They ended the 2013-14 season by winning the Copa del Rey in an El Classico game and then won the elusive tenth Champions League in a Madrid derby.

Their record signing Gareth Bale had slotted into the team perfectly, scoring the winner in both finals, and him and super-Galactico Cristiano Ronaldo were in complete harmony.

The 2014-15 season began where the last left off, with a UEFA Super Cup victory followed by a Club World Cup championship. Their hiccup of losing the Spanish Super Cup to rivals Atletico was quickly forgotten with a record-breaking 22-game win-streak.

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They looked on course to retain the Champions League with some scintillating performances against Liverpool and early in the Knock-out Rounds.

And then, in the first game of 2015, they lost to Valencia, and things took a turn for the worse. They suffered a run of indifferent form and were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in the last 16 and the Champions League in the semi-finals by Juventus.

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Their league campaign took them until the last day of the season, where it was out of their hands, and even a Ronaldo hat-trick and an impressive win wasn't enough to win them the league.

The team came under intense scrutiny and popular manager Carlo Ancelotti was sacked. Here's a look at where the club stands now, and why they are in somewhat of a mess.

Managerial Change

Carlo Ancelotti won Madrid the fabled La Decima, doing what so many before him, including Jose Mourinho, had failed to do. This was achieved with Los Blancos playing with an attacking swagger and freedom that their fans have become accustomed to.

This meant that the Italian was a fan-favourite. He also united a broken dressing room and incorporated new signings into an already packed team. He had the unanimous support of superstars Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, who both have massive stakes in the dressing room.

It was therefore a huge decision to sack him and replace him with Rafael Benitez. Despite the Spaniard having proven himself at Valencia and at Liverpool, his record has been somewhat sketchy since then. His brief spell at Inter Milan left them in a precarious position in the league, before he became Chelsea manager, where a Europa League victory was at the fore of his achievements.

From here, he moved to Napoli, where he finished fifth last season. He will undoubtedly alter the playing style and tactics of Madrid and he won't have long at all to yield fruits, for the Madrid fans are demanding at best.

Transfer Policy

When was the last time a Madrid regular came through the academy? Or they scouted a relatively unknown player who became a star? It could be argued that Raphael Varane falls into the latter category, although his playing time was very much restricted under Ancelotti.

Their starting line-up was made up of 'Galacticos' - superstar players who attract a large following, a lot of shirt sales and immediate results. With a starting XI cost of more than £500 million, there is no surprise that very few academy products make it into the first team.

And here-in lies the first big problem for Benitez. Club legend Iker Casillas was unceremoniously sold to Porto under the assumption that they had a ready-made replacement in David de Gea. But the United board are angered that Madrid think that they can hand-pick any player they wish, and refuse to sell.

They wanted Ramos, Madrid said no. So now they are playing the same game and want Madrid to suffer for a season, keeping the sought-after number one for another year. it seems that Real Madrid have lost this battle, signing Casilla instead, an ex-Madrid player of considerably less pedigree than target De Gea.

Finances

For what seems like forever, Real Madrid have had a bottomless pit of money. They were able to break record after record in the transfer market, most notably in 2009, where they broke the transfer record for Kaka and he remained the record for a matter of weeks before Ronaldo signed as well. But all of that may be about to change.

La Liga has so far been operating on a 'every club for themselves' TV rights policy, where clubs negotiate their own rights. Naturally, broadcasters are mostly interested in the superpowers of Barcelona and Real Madrid and so they receive the lion's share of the money, with the remaining teams left to fight for scraps.

But that was binned at the end of last season, and now the Spanish clubs are pooled together in a similar way to the Premier League. This means that the big two are going to lose a share of money that they would have got, and restrictions may have to be placed on the spending of the Madrid giants.

Their shirt sponsors, Emirates, have also got three years remaining on their contract and so they cannot bring more money in that way. Are they about to become a selling club? Probably not, but it is more likely that Benitez has to put more effort in to balance the books.

The Current Squad

When everything is going well, the team's flaws are often overlooked. When thing are going badly, scrutiny begins, and problems start to be highlighted.

The current squad was found wanting in defence towards the second half of last season. It seemed as though all tactics had gone out of the window, and their sole aim was to outscore the opposition, resulting in some high-scoring games such as the 4-2 against Celta Vigo.

The team is heavily favoured in attack and many consider to massively unbalanced. But a huge problem lies in the chemistry of the team.

Twice last season, and once already in pre-season, Ronaldo has shown his anger at team-mate Gareth Bale for not passing the ball to him. Ronaldo is Real Madrid's prize asset and the team attacks through him and only him.

This creates a problem for Bale, who failed to make an impact in his second season in La Liga for this reason (amongst others). It also creates a problem for the team itself. Ronaldo is beginning the twilight of his career and isn't the explosive winger we have seen in the past decade.

He has primarily become a finisher, with a majority of his goals coming from inside the box, and less dribbles attempted than ever before.

Is it time to make Bale the main outlet for the team? Whatever the answer is, Real Madrid are going through a lot of changes and a fair bit of turbulence at the moment and the man at the helm, Rafael Benitez will have to grasp the reigns in an instant, because at the biggest club in the world, even a running start is too slow.

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Topics:
Gareth Bale
Real Madrid
La Liga
Cristiano Ronaldo
Football

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