Chaos rules at Madrid post-Zinedine with Ronaldo Bale futures on hold

The FC panel respond to reports of Cristiano Ronaldo’s unhappiness at Real Madrid and discuss why this story doesn’t seem to go away.
ESPN FC’s Alejandro Moreno explains why Cristiano Ronaldo’s repetitive threats to leave Real Madrid are losing value.
ESPN FC’s Stevie Nicol feels Zinedine Zidane left Real Madrid at exactly the right time after rumours suggest a rift with Florentino Perez.
Sid Lowe explains what Real Madrid will be looking for in their managerial search, and the FC crew ponder whether Arsene Wenger is a good fit.

Real Madrid are in a state of flux. The club continue their search for Zinedine Zidane’s replacement, with a long list of issues which cannot be resolved until the new man is appointed.

Zidane’s shock decision to step down just days after winning a third consecutive Champions League trophy appears to have taken everyone at the Bernabeu by surprise. There’s speculation and uncertainty over Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale’s future, as well as where the team will do the majority of their preseason work.

Here’s a look at the key issues facing the managerless European champions …

Keeping stars

Zidane’s exit has only further complicated the situation with the Bernabeu’s two unsettled big-name attackers.

He was a big supporter of Ronaldo in the Portuguese’s clash with club chief Florentino Perez over a payrise, and did an excellent job in keeping Ronaldo focused right up until moments after the final whistle of the Champions League final in Kiev. With his most powerful ally at the Bernabeu gone, Ronaldo appears even more frustrated and isolated, hence the steady drip of stories saying he wants out.

Bale’s situation looks different. His complaints after the 3-1 final win over Liverpool were around not starting enough games. The Welshman might now be persuaded he will get his starter status back under a new regime. Although that could depend on the right man taking the job.

Sorting out signings

While Perez takes personal control of the biggest transfer decisions at the Bernabeu, deals for long-term targets Neymar and David De Gea are much less likely to get sorted if those players do not know the identity of their prospective new boss.

Negotiations are also reportedly under way for less high profile players like Roma goalkeeper Alisson or Real Sociedad right-back Alvaro Odriozola, without knowing if the new coach rates either. And Brazilian youngster Vinicius Jnr. appears to be moving to the Spanish capital when he turns 18 this month, without knowing who decides if the starlet is ready for demands at the top level.

Such uncertainty allows for comic moments which Madrid’s hierarchy would prefer to avoid. Speaking from Spain’s World Cup camp in Krasnodar on Sunday, De Gea was asked about the infamous fax malfunction which stopped his move from Manchester United back in 2015. “Maybe they use email now,” he replied, to smiles all round. 

Managing outgoings

Midfielder Mateo Kovacic is one of last season’s squad players considering whether he should move on to get more playing time elsewhere, with no coach around to persuade him to stay on for next year.

Borja Mayoral has admitted he is “waiting to see what happens” before considering offers from other clubs. Others in the same position include last summer’s €18 million playmaker Dani Ceballos and ex-Alaves holding midfielder Marcos Llorente.

Competitive and motivated back-ups were key to Zidane’s side winning the 2016-17 La Liga title, while a lack of experienced options really hurt their defence of that trophy in the season just finished. The uncertainty will not help the new coach in this when he does arrive.

Loans and kids

Madrid had 20 different players out on loan last season — mostly youngsters out getting experience elsewhere, but also €14 million Brazilian midfielder Lucas Silva and now veteran left-back Fabio Coentrao. The new coach is unlikely to use many of these next season, but at least some might be useful to have around depending on other ins and outs over the summer.

Promising prospects whose futures need to be decided include ex-Castilla forward Raul de Tomas, 23, who Zidane did not appear to rate but who scored 24 goals for Rayo Vallecano in the 2017-18 Segunda Division. Uruguay’s Fede Valverde and Norway’s Martin Odegaard, both already full internationals at just 19, could also have expected to at least train with Madrid’s senior side this summer.

Preseason organisation

Madrid’s first preseason game is their International Champions Cup clash with Manchester United in Miami on July 31. They then have ICC fixtures against Juventus in Washington (Aug. 4) and Roma in New Jersey (Aug. 7) before the UEFA Supercup against Atletico Madrid in Tallinn on Aug. 15.

At the moment it is still unclear where Madrid will begin their preparations for the new campaign. A disagreement over beginning work in Montreal before most senior stars were back from post-World Cup holidays was reportedly one reason why Zidane decided next season would not be a success if he remained in the job. Any new coach would surely want an input into these type of decisions too.

Madrid’s players not in Russia this summer — Bale, Karim Benzema and some kids and squad members — are due back on July 17.

Every day that passes before a new coach is appointed will make it more difficult to hit the ground running ahead of 2018-19.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan