Santiago Solari took the reins as Real Madrid manager after the club released Julien Lopetegui the day after the El Clasico debacle.
The inevitable thing happened. Real Madrid appointed new manager after disastrous September and October. Julien Lopetegui was shown the door and Santiago Hernan Solari took his place. Born October 7 1976 in Rosario, Argentina, Solari is a familiar face at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Solari the player
I’m sure by now all football lovers learned his history as a player and as a manager in Real’s youth teams. Extremely talented and smart player, Solari managed to find a lot of playing space in the Galactico era beginning of the century.
By now you all refreshed your memory with his success and the part he played in the goal of the century scored by his predecessor in the hot-seat.
You’ve also read that after over 200 games played for the Madrid giant he headed to Internazionale Milan and spent there 3 years. He won 3 scudetti in Italy however he wasn’t as influential as he was in Madrid.
After the European experience he went back home to River Plate, the club that lunched him in professional football. After a single season he went North to Mexico and eventually ended his playing career in Uruguay with Penarol.
Personally, I have fond memories of him as a player. To tell you the truth I always bought him on Football Manager. A left winger with a lot of creativity, precise crossing and dazzling dribbling abilities but also responsible and not afraid to take the responsibility and shoot when given the opportunity.
You could see that he understands the game and what managers demand from him. He wasn’t publicly exposed as some of his teammates however in terms of football intelligence, class and talent he was rightfully part of that group of players that beside aforementioned Zidane included the likes of Ronaldo, Figo, Raul, Roberto Carlos et al.
What to expect?
It’s hard to predict what to expect from him as a Madrid interim manager.
Solari’s record as a youth team manager is a mixed bag. He didn’t set the league on fire, didn’t achieve headline-grabbing results and didn’t have to deal with international superstars that have no issues in telling the manager to shut up.
For all comparison drawn with Zidane I see some big differences between their coaching paths.
For once, Zidane was Ancelotti’s deputy for a couple of seasons. Daily worked alongside the manager mostly renewed for his human abilities. Ancelotti is a great tactician, proved it on more then a few occasions, however his ability to establish a close relationship with the players and thus getting the best out of them is probably his distinguished quality.
Zinedine had the chance to observe the master at work for a very long time and being an intelligent person picked up some important tips.
Solari has been the club as manager at youth level long enough to learn from both however not on daily basis.
Secondly, Zidane won literally everything as a player. When somebody walks into the Merengue dressing room and wants to be heard needs to have something that back-up his words. Who can have more backing then Zidane?
As said Solari spent 5 years at Madrid and played an important role in the team’s success but was never the standout personality of the team. Collected only 11 caps for Argentina and never won greatest individual prizes.
Thirdly, the Frenchman inherited the squad from a highly unpopular manager among the squad. Getting the team on your side wasn’t that hard.
The Argentinian is succeeding a manager who had a good portion of the team on his side. Lopetegui was even presented to Perez as possible substitution for Zidane by captain Ramos and other Spanish national team players.
Fourthly, Zidane had Ronaldo in the squad. That’s an easy 50 goals per campaign. And the whole team was hungry for success.
Solari is inheriting a team that has unbelievable trouble to score goals. Real is having a lot of shots on goal but can’t seem to hit the net. And doesn’t have a player with 50 goals. Neither 2 of 25.
What are Solari’s chances?
Within the next 2 weeks Real has to nominate the new full time manager, according to La Liga rules.
In these 2 weeks Real will play in Spanish Cup against lower league Melilla, league match against Real Valladolid, CL clash with Victoria Plzen and a tricky visit to Celta Vigo. Even if his team win all of these matches nothing extraordinary would happen.
However, not everything is lost in advance and Santiago has a few aces up his sleeve.
One of them is that currently available coaches are publicly being discredited by most representative players. Conte has been given for granted however Ramos lately gave significant statements that could prevent Perez from pursuing the Italian.
Plus Conte has legal issues to solve with Chelsea before he can take over at another club. And his overall requests are quite demanding.
Arsene Wenger is free and could sign immediately but he’s not much of an upgrade from Conte in terms of managing style. Just ask Robin Van Persie why he left Arsenal for Manchester United.
Other candidates being mentioned in the media lately (Maurizio Pochettino, Roberto Martinez and even Jose Mourinho) have valid contracts with other employers and having them released so soon isn’t possible. Or at least very hard.
Therefore if Solari manages to avoid embarrassing results in the next few weeks, produces acceptable football style and wins, he might get a chance to see out the season.
Beside lack of valuable alternatives another ace in his sleeve could be Vinicius Junior. The young Brazilian attacker has been overlooked by Lopetegui. Since there isn’t anybody who’s scoring goals a bet on the summer acquisition can’t make things any worse. The youngster certainly has the ability to play on this level and could prove a hit. Validating an investment is always a good thing.
He’s been thrown at the deep end but he’s familiar with the environment, expectations and knows how things work at the club.
Had the chance to follow closely, as a player and also manager at the club, how to treat superstars and squeeze out the best of them. He has to learn extremely fast how to apply the knowledge.
His predecessor didn’t set a high standard, squad has a lot of quality and experience, has a prodigy to count upon and the market isn’t offering anything outstanding that can be appointed quickly. And also the opposition he’ll be facing in the trial period isn’t extraordinary so he has a chance to bring home some points.
All in all Solari just might earn the right to manage the team till end of the season. I’m not expecting any Zidane effect but a decent campaign. And if Perez throws in a valuable player or two in January, who knows, we could be surprised.