2019 was a topsy turvy year for Real Madrid and here at The Hard Tackle we take a look at five highlights that defined the year that was for Los Blancos.
In many ways, the year 2019 was a mixed bag for La Liga heavyweights Real Madrid. The year began with the managerial situation in doldrums, while there were no trophies for the club either.
However, there had been quite a few positives along the way, such as the emergence of youngsters Federico Valverde, the rise of Karim Benzema out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadows, while they are back in the hunt for the La Liga title, sitting joint table-toppers with arch-rivals Barcelona.
And here at The Hard Tackle we run down through the five year-defining moments for Real Madrid in 2019;
The Ajax Capitulation
Having completed a hat-trick of Champions League triumphs, the expectations on Real Madrid were naturally very huge in the 2018-19 campaign. A fairly comfortable run through the group stages set up a Round of 16 battle with Dutch heavyweights Ajax.
The first leg, played in Amsterdam, went pretty much according to plan for Los Blancos as they returned with a 2-1 win with goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio. Real Madrid were so confident of going through to the next stage that captain Sergio Ramos deliberately picked up a late booking that got him suspended for the second leg, ensuring he would not miss the quarter-final.
But, something unexpected happened at Santiago Bernabeu. Ajax put in one of the most memorable performances of the year as they trounced Real Madrid 4-1. The Merengues capitulated under the pressure and intensity shown by the Dutch giants, throwing away their first leg lead and making a shock exit from the Champions League much earlier than expected.
A week later, manager Santiago Solari, who had taken over from Julen Lopetegui earlier in the season, was shown the doors by Real Madrid.
The Prodigal Son Returns
Nine months. That’s all it took for Real Madrid to go back to former superstar player and manager Zinedine Zidane. Following the capitulation against Ajax, the Spanish capital outfit were in a disarray and were linked with a host of names such as Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho after Solari was let go of.
However, Florentino Perez decided to bring back the man who had left Real Madrid prior to the onset of the 2018-19 campaign. And in came Zinedine Zidane, just nine months after he had vacated the managerial hotseat at the Bernabeu on his volition, after having led the club to a hat-trick of Champions League triumphs.
Zidane had an amazing record of having not lost a single cup final as the manager of Real Madrid and having achieved historic feats during his time at the helm, the Frenchman went about correcting the course after a dismal start to the 2018-19 term.
Real Madrid’s fortunes did not improve immediately under the club legend, but things have definitely taken a turn for the better in the 2019-20 season. The Merengues are pushing Barcelona for the La Liga title and have started the new year with another trophy under Zidane, winning the Supercopa de Espana.
Hazard arrives – At last!
It is no secret that Real Madrid had courted the signing of Eden Hazard for a long time. It is also no secret that following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2018, the Merengues needed a marquee player to fill in his vacant boots, more so after the turbulent 2018-19 campaign.
And once again Hazard’s name starting doing the rounds in the summer window of 2019. The Belgian wing-wizard had also flirted with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu on numerous occasions in the past, only to remain a Chelsea player. However, having led the Blues to the UEFA Europa League triumph, he made his desires of a move away clear.
And so it came to be. Eden Hazard had finally signed for Real Madrid after years of mutual admiration and courtship. The Belgian international cost Los Blancos in the region of €100 million, signing a five-year contract till the summer of 2024.
Having arrived at the Bernabeu, Hazard hasn’t been able to meet the expectations that came along with his transfer. Weight issues and injury problems have meant that the 29-year-old has made only 13 appearances so far for his new club, scoring just once and setting up four more. Nevertheless, the signing of Hazard will go down as a memorable moment for Real Madrid in 2019.
Rodrygo announces himself in style
Real Madrid reached an agreement with Brazilian giants Santos for the signing of a certain Rodrygo Goes in the summer of 2018 for a rumoured fee of €45 million, with the player set to move to the Bernabeu a year later. Having joined the club in 2019, the Brazilian attacker had to wait for his first-team debut, but when it came, Rodrygo went on to make an ever-lasting impact.
The 19-year-old scored his first goal for Real Madrid minutes after coming off the bench in a La Liga clash against Osasuna in September, giving an insight into the bags of potential he possessed. However, it was a month later when he well and truly announced himself as a Real Madrid player.
Starting the UEFA Champions League game against Galatasaray in November – just his second appearance in the competition – Rodrygo went on to score a hat-trick – a perfect hat-trick no less – as Real Madrid thrashed the Turkish giants 6-1 at the Bernabeu. It was a perfect display from the youngster, who showed his class and demonstrated his predatory instincts in front of goal.
Rodrygo went on to create history on that night, becoming the second youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League, behind Real Madrid legend Raul. He also became the second youngest Brazilian to score a hat-trick in a European competition, behind another legend Ronaldo. Surely, the 19-year-old is bound to go places in the years to come at Real Madrid.
Wales. Golf. Madrid – The Gareth Bale Saga
— Sports News Today (@SportsNewsToda4) November 20, 2019
This year in review article for Real Madrid will not be complete without a mention for Welsh superstar Gareth Bale. The former Tottenham star’s future had been cast in doubt the moment Zidane returned to the club and as the summer window progressed, it looked increasingly likely that Bale wouldn’t be a Real Madrid player any longer.
Indeed, the Welshman looked set for a move to the cash-rich Chinese Super League only for Real Madrid president Florentino Perez to pull the plug on the deal in the last moment. And it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it has been anything but smooth sailing for Bale, Zidane and the club.
Bale has, on repeated occasions, been left on the bench by Zidane in important fixtures, while the fans also have appeared to turn on the Wales international. Things came to a head when, after a win with the Welsh national team, Bale celebrated with a banner that read “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order”, referring to comments made by former Real Madrid player and sporting director Predrag Mijatovic.
This did not go down well with the supporters of the club, while Spanish media took this opportunity to question Bale’s professionalism and attitude. As things stand, Bale still remains a Real Madrid player and is unlikely to depart from the club in the ongoing transfer window. But, the whole episode towards the end of the last year will have left a bad taste.