If Zinedine Zidane had stayed at Real Madrid last summer, several subsequent events could have been very different.
Julen Lopetegui wouldn’t have been sent home by Spain on the eve of the World Cup, having agreed to replace the Frenchman, and Santiago Solari would likely still be coaching in the Real Madrid youth set-up.
Thibaut Courtois may not have left Chelsea for Madrid either. Zidane was a big backer of Keylor Navas, and had blocked the idea of another stopper coming in. The club had been very close to signing Kepa Arrizabalaga in the January 2018 window, for his then €20m buyout clause, but Zidane wasn’t keen and the goalkeeper renewed.
Courtois then exited Chelsea in the summer window for a relatively bargain €35m, and Kepa went to Stamford Bridge for €80m.
Zidane is now back, and the Spanish media have been making it very clear that Madrid’s Belgian stopper needs to up his game. Marca report Madrid have sent a ‘warning’ to their player, and that happened before Zidane returned.
They want him to ‘recover the level’ he showed at the World Cup, which, along with the price, convinced Madrid to sign him from Chelsea.
Courtois ‘isn’t going through his best moment’ at the club. His performances, and also media coverage of the player’s life away from football, are said to have triggered leaders at the Spanish club to give the player the warning.
Real Madrid still very much believe in him and there’s not thought to be a big issue, just a reminder that he needs to be at the highest level all the time.
The choice between Courtois and Navas will be down to Zidane.