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Barcelona maintain superiority over Real Madrid in La Liga preparation

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Zinedine Zidane returned to a similar team to the one he left, and he faces an identical Barcelona setup

In clinching a third successive UEFA Champions League title, Zinedine Zidane decided to leave Real Madrid at the end of the 2017/18 season, and it unfortunately prompted an awful showing from the club over the next twelve months consisting of two new managers, a third place finish in La Liga behind local derby rivals Atletico Madrid, and the return of Zinedine Zidane before the end of the term.

Fans of the club were exhilarated by Zinedine Zidane's decision to return to the Bernabeu, but it was a far from perfect reunion as he won five and drew two of Real Madrid's final eleven games of the 2018/19 La Liga season. The poor showing even under the Frenchman proved that the issues at the club needed more help than merely a more capable manager at the helm, and that they were a fair distance from the three-time European champions Zidane led just ten months prior.

Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid
Winning nine recognised pieces of silverware presents a solid managerial record for Zinedine Zidane. He will be defined by how his side challenge with Barcelona this season.

The concept of the next transfer window being a crucial one for Real Madrid was always expected - as nobody would envisage someone of Zidane's calibre returning to a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid without assurances of money to spend on a replacement - and that's exactly what we've seen over the summer so far.

Although it's immensely promising to see Real Madrid not only rebuild, but actually attempt to build a strong team for future years, massive question marks surround whether they're any better than a Barcelona side who've won La Liga in successive seasons, even after over £270 million has been spent in an attempt to improve their selection of players.

Real Madrid transfers form a team of higher quality, but are they still behind Barcelona?

Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Juventus in 2018, Real Madrid have been missing a ruthlessness which made them impossible to face for a lot of sides. Although the Portuguese forward has proven himself as one of the world's greatest ever players, even his influence couldn't claim any more than two La Liga titles during his nine years at the club due to the ever-present threat of Barcelona.

Links to Chelsea winger Eden Hazard tainted a lot of Maurizio Sarri's single season at Chelsea as he awaited his star player to leave the club. It was no shock to see the Belgian sign for Real Madrid almost as soon as the window opened, but the statement of intent from Real Madrid has been on another scale, exciting Eintracht Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic, Porto defender Eder Militao, Lyon full-back Ferland Mendy, and Brazilian winger Rodrygo following Hazard through the entry door for an accumulative £270 million.

Antoine Griezmann Atletico Madrid
Antoine Griezmann joining Barcelona was expected to pave an exit for Philippe Coutinho. The Frenchman ended up taking the number seventeen rather than seven, potentially meaning that Coutinho is staying.

Signings such as these would surely improve any of the world's best football clubs, but with Barcelona making moves of their own, it's hard to avoid a feeling of helplessness from a Real Madrid side who simply can't escape the shadow of their league rivals. Barcelona had already confirmed the signing of highly-rated Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong far before the season had ended, and they only added further depth through the signings of Valencia goalkeeper Norberto Neto, Brazilian full-back Emerson, and Atletico Madrid striker and France World Cup 2018 winner Antoine Griezmann, equating to an accumulative fee of £209.7 million.

Sales of Mateo Kovacic, Marcos Llorente, Raul de Romas and Theo Hernandez made Real Madrid £103.5 million while the sales of Jasper Cillessen, Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer, Denis Suarez, Emerson, Marc Cardona, Marc Cucurella and Sergi Palencia made Barcelona £95.7 million, proving Real Madrid's profits to only be marginally stronger than Barcelona.

Valverde and Zidane: like two halves of one perfect football manager

If only it was possible to splice two famous football figures together, the perfect coach could be created to benefit one team's fortunes in all major competitions. That's the feeling fans of Spanish football get from Ernesto Valverde from Zinedine Zidane, as Valverde is a proven La Liga winner but constantly falls short in Europe, while Zinedine Zidane holds the best ever record for successive Champions League wins whilst more often than not falling short in the league.

Bookmaker odds indicate that Barcelona are set for another La Liga title, and it's the reality that a lot of neutral football fans are resigned to believing after the club signed Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid. Before this point, there was hope for a Real Madrid side on the up, but the prolific form of Griezmann will surely only improve Barca, who won La Liga last season despite being far from perfect.

Ernesto Valverde Barcelona
Reports in Spain hinted at Ernesto Valverde almost losing his job at the end of last season after Barcelona lost in the Champions League from a winning position for the second season in a row.

Disappointingly losing their UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool ruined original hopes of at least featuring in the final of the competition, and they also saw disappointment late-on in the Copa del Rey, losing the final to Valencia, so these two tournaments could be a place for Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid to capitalise even if they're unable to get anywhere past Barcelona in the La Liga table.

On a general level, it would be enough of a relief to see Real Madrid back to challenging Barcelona during El Clasico if nothing else, as Barca are unbeaten in the last six meetings between the two Spanish giants, winning four and drawing two, making the Spanish top tier look more like French Ligue 1 where only one team is capable of winning the league, and nobody enjoys seeing that being the case aside from PSG fans.

Latest football transfers - Real Madrid and Barcelona

Real Madrid Transfers 19/20

  • Eden Hazard (£90 million from Chelsea)
  • Luka Jovic (£54 million from Eintracht Frankfurt)
  • Eder Militao (£45 million from Porto)
  • Ferland Mendy (£43.2 million from Lyon)
  • Rodrygo (£40.5 million from Santos)

Barcelona Transfers 19/20

  • Antoine Griezmann (£108 million from Atletico Madrid)
  • Frenkie de Jong (£67.5 million from Ajax)
  • Norberto Neto (£24.4 million from Valencia)
  • Emerson (£10.8 million from Atletico Mineiro)