Zinedine Zidane Praises Keylor Navas, Marcelo and Isco After Real Madrid Recalls

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2019

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 16: Isco of Real Madrid celebrates 1-0 during the La Liga Santander  match between Real Madrid v Celta de Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 16, 2019 in Madrid Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Keylor Navas, Isco and Marcelo can count on getting more starts after being recalled to the Real Madrid starting XI by returning manager Zinedine Zidane on Saturday.

Zidane began his second stint in charge with a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga. Isco and Gareth Bale netted the goals after Zidane brought them back into the fold.

He also dropped goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in favour of Keylor Navas, who was his first choice in three successive UEFA Champions League final wins, and restored left-back Marcelo to the starting XI. The Frenchman explained his willingness to trust players he knows, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan:

"Nobody here, or anywhere, can take away what these players have done here. I won't get into what the previous coaches did, but I know the players they are, they have shown it before here. I am going to count on them. They showed that today, those who had played less -- Keylor, Marcelo, Isco, Marco -- all of them. I am going to count on all 25 players in the squad."

Predecessor Santiago Solari routinely overlooked established players such as Isco and Marcelo, who had made zero and three league starts between them in 2019, respectively.

By contrast, Zidane knows these players well after they helped Real win the Champions League three years in a row before he stepped down in May 2018.

Bringing forgotten figures back into the first team was a big call and yielded only mixed results during a goalless first half in the Spanish capital.

Navas justified supplanting Courtois with an acrobatic save from a Maxi Gomez header. Bale hit the bar, but perhaps escaped harsher punishment when he was only booked for an apparent elbow on Kevin Vazquez.

Isco was struggling to get involved but did produce some useful combinations with Marcelo.

Things improved in the second half when Marco Asensio, another player offered a new lease of life by Zidane's return, helped create Isco's opener.

Bale wrapped up the scoring 13 minutes from time, and it was fitting Marcelo was the one to tee up the Welshman to ensure all of Zidane's recalls made vital contributions.

It's an ideal start for a manager hoping to use his second tour to revive a squad that's floundered since he opted to walk away. Julen Lopetegui and Solari were sacked after failing to maintain performance levels of players who excelled under Zidane.

Replacing attacking talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, who was sold to Juventus last summer, was a major problem facing Lopetegui and Solari. Yet both also ignored a lot of the talent at their disposal.

Isco became so marginalised on Solari's watch that transfer rumours regarding the 26-year-old became common. He was linked with Premier League duo Liverpool and Manchester United in early March.

There had been bigger doubts about Bale, even after Zidane's return was confirmed. The winger's agent indicated Bale's future would be determined by Zidane's plans on Tuesday, per Corrigan.

However, Zidane said he is "counting on" Bale three days later, according to BBC Sport.

Zidane should put his trust in Bale since the 29-year-old has the pace, aerial prowess and shooting power to become the focal point of the attack in the way Ronaldo was.

By turning back to the veterans he knows, Zidane can not only make quick work of turning Real's season around; he can also show where previous managers went wrong by changing too much in the post-Ronaldo era. 

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