Zidane: I will count on all my Real Madrid players this season
Returning Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed his faith in his team’s “old guard” after the recalled Isco and Gareth Bale scored in Saturday afternoon’s 2-0 La Liga win over Celta.
Reappointed on Monday after leaving last year, Zidane immediately undid the decisions of predecessors Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari by reinstating the sidelined Keylor Navas, Marcelo, Isco, Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale in his XI.
The first half was even against a Celta side battling against relegation, but Madrid upped the tempo after the break and it was significant that Isco and Bale — both out of the team recently under Solari — found the net.
Zidane told his postmatch news conference at the Bernabeu that he was not ready to write off players who had contributed to the club’s success, including three Champions League victories during his previous spell in charge.
“Nobody here, or anywhere, can take away what these players have done here,” Zidane said. “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.”
Madrid could have found themselves behind with Navas saving from Celta’s Maxi Gomez in the first half, as some of the defensive issues shown throughout the season so far popped up again. But Isco and Bale struck in the second half to secure the points.
“We got a good result in the end, what we were looking for, an important result,” Zidane said. “We didn’t start the game well, that is normal, we needed to have patience. We were getting on top at the end of the first half, and much better in the second half. So I am happy.”
Zidane suggested that he would use the remaining 10 La Liga games this season to give playing time to all players in his squad — with Madrid still nine points behind Barcelona ahead of the leaders’ trip to Real Betis on Sunday evening.
“Today Keylor played, and Thibaut [Courtois] will play too,” he said. “This will always come up here, but Madrid need two, three, four great goalkeepers. So the coach always has the problem. I will count on both until the end of the season, then we will see.
“We will have changes in the summer, but I cannot say anything more. I will not be here for each of the 10 games thinking ‘he played well so they stay’ or ‘he played badly so he must go’. We are not [picking teams] on the playground here.”
Meanwhile, Navas led the chorus of Madrid players hailing the return of Zidane, saying that “happiness” had returned to the club.
“Happiness has returned to the dressing room and that’s the most important thing,” Navas told reporters. “The past is the past, the group is working well. I don’t know if we needed a change or not but the club thought it was necessary.
“Zidane has spoken to each one of individually and now we need to be professionals and work hard.”
Real defender Alvaro Odriozola also spoke of a change in atmosphere with the return of Zidane.
“We are all very excited, we have renewed hope after that tragic week,” said Odriozola. “We have to look to the future, end this season with honour and try to win the remaining 10 games. We have to stay focused on competing and not thinking about who is playing or who isn’t. Instead, we all need to give 100 percent.”
Midfielder Dani Ceballos added: “It looks like us changing our coach worked. We have recovered some sensations we had lost and we have got the three points. Now our objective is to win all the games left and finish the season as well as possible.”