Real Madrid: Replacing Zidane with former player is a bad idea

In a recent poll by Chiringuito, Guti was voted by Real Madrid fans as their choice to take over from Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid manager. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.

Zinedine Zidane’s tenure has been nothing but meteoric. When he took over in January 2016, Real Madrid had just exited the Copa Del Rey in disgrace and was facing an insurmountable deficit in the La Liga title race.

Zizou dragged his team from the ashes and led them to their 11th Champions League victory in Milan before an unthinkable double the following season. Nine months later, he has completed a full circle and looks set to be sacked should Madrid fail to win the Champions League.

The Spanish sports show El Chiringuito ran a poll to see who Madrid fans would like to replace Zidane. Fans chose former player and Juvenil head coach, Guti, over established managers like Joachim Low and Mauricio Pochettino. In this article, I hope to show you why hiring Guti so early is a bad idea and how throwing an inexperienced Zidane into the head coaching role is starting to hurt us.
Real Experience Matters

Compare Zidane’s CV before he took over Madrid to his predecessor’s early careers and you will notice a gulf in early experience. Jose Mourinho had been an assistant coach for six years at the top level before he got his big break at Porto.

Carlo Ancelotti had worked at lower level Italian sides Reggiana and Parma for two years respectively before his first big job at Juventus. It took Rafa Benitez eight years to build up the prestige before he was hired by a then title challenging Valencia team.
Zinedine Zidane had been in management for just three years (one as an assistant coach and two as Castilla manager) and unlike his predecessors, he starting out at the top. There are few clubs in the world that expect as much as Real Madrid do and one should keep that in mind when they go about choosing their ideal manager.
Zidane’s Castilla Days

Youth teams and particularly B teams like Castilla have acted as a stepping stone for many promising managers looking to enter management with coaches like Vicente Del Bosque and Rafa Benitez all starting out at Castilla. To understand the jump that Guti would face coming into senior management so quickly, I spoke to Sam Sharpe, Castilla journalist with Managing Madrid, about Zidane’s early managerial career at Real Madrid Castilla.

Here’s what he had to say on Zidane’s early strengths as a manager:

“He was impeccably good when it came to man management and in most games he would deploy a team that could go out and do the business.”

And whether he overachieved or underachieved at Castilla:

“He had a strong squad for the 14/15 season, but, failed to make the playoffs. In his second season, he had the best squad in the league at his disposal and although they went on to become group league champions, that achievement looked in doubt until Zidane left Castilla for the first team role. In short, he was a severe underachiever with Castilla.”

It is not uncommon for some managers to struggle at the youth level, especially in Spain where your team is gutted by a parent club most summers. Nonetheless, it is important that if you wish to promote from within that you give a coach ample time at a team like Castilla to discover their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
Guti’s Manager Career So Far

Guti, on the other hand, lacks even the little experience that Zidane had entering his first-team job. I spoke to Ondra Paul, a fantastic youth football journalist with Managing Madrid to get a summary of Guti’s career so far and whether he thought that former iconic midfielder was ready for senior coaching.

On Guti’s career so far:

“Well Guti quickly rose through the ranks of La Fabrica. He developed a reputation for playing possession based football and was promoted to Juvenil A (Real Madrid Under 19s) where he has had the most success so far. Last season, he led his team to a “treble” and to the semi finals of the Youth League (Under 19 Champions League).”

“This season, the performances have been mixed and it was sort of expected. This generation is slightly weaker than the last’s year and the whole spine of the treble winning team was promoted to Castilla.”

On Guti replacing Zidane in the summer:

“As for Guti replacing Zidane, I think it’s entirely ridiculous to even suggest it. Zidane was lucky to have such success, but even he managed Castilla in a senior professional league. Juvenil is playing in their age category and the jump from that division to Segunda B is very big. I like Guti, but he isn’t ready.”

Guti will eventually leave youth football and manage a professional team. He will more than likely struggle and his development, like that of the man he is favored to replace, might not be a rising line on a graph. Hence, it is important that we learn from Zidane’s tenure at the club and give Guti plenty of time to develope instead of forcing him to learn on the job like Zidane has had to do.
The Pep Guardiola Effect

I want you to consider why hiring Guti is such a popular suggestion. It’s hard not to ignore his lack of experience and only a handful of people watch Juvenil A week in week out. When you subtract the usual variables that one judges a managerial candidate, the case for Guti sits on similar legs that Zidane appointment stood on and the appointment of Ryan Giggs to Welsh National team stands on.

The legacy of their playing days might galvanize a talented dressing room to play football that even the most tactically astute coach couldn’t achieve.
He might surprise us and be a really good manager.

The second one rings particularly true these days. Legendary players transitioning into top-level management isn’t unheard of. Franz Beckenbauer won a World Cup with Germany in his first job as a manager while Miguel Munoz won the European Cup and started a dynasty at Real Madrid just a few years after retiring.

However, it is almost impossible for me to recall the transition being this quick. In the past, barring a few freakish examples, players were given at least three or four years at a youth team or testing the managerial waters before being recalled. These days, it seems that a former world-class player can make it to top level coaching with little more than his reputation.

I feel that Pep Guardiola’s incredible success at FC Barcelona is partly to blame. The Catalan was appointed to the senior managerial role of Barca and led them out of a deep crisis to an era of unprecedented dominance.

Instead of praising Guardiola for his achievements at Barcelona, fans and management boards alike seemed to have taken it quite differently, that it is in times of chaos that one should appoint a former player.
Let’s Not Make the Same Mistakes

Young managers are like young players, they can either take the world by storm from a young age or spend years trying to get the basics right. Real Madrid rushed Zidane into this job and we are now, in part, paying for this.