Last Saturday everything went according to plan in Zinedine Zidane’s managerial debut at Real Madrid. The 5-0 victory against Deportivo La Coruna was greeted with wide positivisity among world football, underlining how Zizou, despite only a few days in the job, caused a shift in mood inside the dressing room. Croatia international Luka Modric’s post-match words quickly circulated the globe and precisely described the relaxation of the squad.
“I'm sorry for Rafa [Benitez] and I'd like to thank him for his work, but to be honest, taking Deportivo game into account, I think the change has been good,” Modric said after the game, adding an even more painful description of the differences of Benitez’s and Zidane’s Madrid side. “To be honest, you just have to compare this match with our last one.”
Those last words speak volumes for the state of affairs Madrid and shades Modric's perspective on the latest developments. Ever since joining Los Blancos, Modric continuously states that “this period and playing for biggest club in the world is dream come true.”
Under Carlo Ancelotti, Modric became an indispensable part of Real Madrid’s starting XI. He was the linchpin of Ancelotti's successful era, as was vividly illustrated during his injury. Without Modric Real Madrid suffered in creativity and a lack of impact in midfield. It was at that point the world noticed how crucial Modric was and still is.
Under Ancelotti Modric was creator of team’s style of football. Whenever the situation on the pitch demanded, he would drop deeper and protect more attack-oriented teammates, showing how players should strive in team work and success. He also improved Real Madrid’s style with more direct passing.
“Modric is simply indispensable. Everyone agrees with that statement, from Coach to player and supporters. All of them recognise Modric's ootballing greatness during four months of injury. Only world-class players have such immense impact on one’s system and style of play,” said Marca's Hugo Cerezo a few months ago.
The recent comments of Modric, perceived differently in his homeland than the rest of the world due to his celebrity status, proved how the team didn't accept Benitez's methods of training and comminicating with players.
So, what to expect of Modric under the guidance of Zidane? Revival would be a strong word, but at least performances more like those Modric showed under Ancelotti. Zidane recently talked about what kind of football he will try to implement. The key word was football. In such an environment Modric [along with Toni Kroos] will still be the lifeblood of Real Madrid.
Zidane's admiration of him – in last year’s poll for Canal+ Zizou chose Modric in his best XI at that point – should only produce better performances. The Deportivo game proved that Modric still is the director of Real Madrid's style and has full power in dictating tempo and creation.
Los Blancos supporters shouldn’t be worried, as legendary Milan player Zvonimir Boban once wrote: “Modric is a decisive player.”