In the 21 games since Zinedine Zidane became Real Madrid manager, he has steered his team to 17 victories and just two losses. That's good for an 80% win rate. How has he managed that?
In defence of Rafael Benitez, his own record was not awful. It just was not as good as Barcelona's or Atletico Madrid's early form. A 4-0 drubbing at home in El Clasico and a difficult relationship with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo didn't help either.
Benitez suffered from the perfect storm of poor results, poor performances and a disdainful dressing room.
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Benitez was sacked in early January, only seven months into his tenure at the Bernabeu. Zidane was appointed immediately and no one has looked back since. In that time, Los Blancos have closed the gap to the leaders in La Liga - they now sit just one point adrift - and have reached yet another Champions League semi-final.
If success was the only qualifying factor for success in the Spanish capital, though, many other managers would have lasted longer. El Madridisimo demands more, lest you face the white handkerchief wrath.
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Zidane, on the other hand, has the respect of the dressing room and in turn is getting better performances and results. The cause and effect debate could last far longer than is necessary, but suffice it to say that Real Madrid are favourites to reach the final at the end of May.
The changing perception of Real's season is not only down to the ebb and flow of form over the course of a season, but also the recent strength of character.
In only the last few weeks, Madrid have beaten Barcelona at the Nou Camp and overturned a two-goal deficit against Wolfsburg in Europe. Even over the weekend, without the talismanic Ronaldo, they were able to produce a comeback victory against Rayo Vallecano.
Yes, the first-leg in Germany was abysmal, but they were resplendent in the second. Although Wolfsburg looked nervous, with Julian Draxler's injury both unfortunate and deflating, Madrid still had to produce three goals. No mean feat even for the ten-time champions of Europe. They also conceded two early goals at the weekend. Their defence has never been a particular strength. They have, though, always had a strong attack. Said attack scored three to defeat Rayo and it could well overwhelm Manchester City's defence.
That character to claim unlikely victories is exactly what is demanded of winners. Real Madrid have rediscovered their belief through Zinedine Zidane. And with Ronaldo in perpetual form and Gareth Bale finding some of his own, they may well claim another European title.
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