Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane was forced to name just 11 fully fit senior outfield players for his squad to face Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The squad Zidane will use to face his Serie A opponents will be made up of no less than five players from the club’s Castilla squad, which is mostly made up of youth and reserve players.
Like the team that scraped a 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid on Saturday night, Zidane will be without star striker Karim Benzema, as well as Eden Hazard, Fede Valverde, Rodrygo, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Eder Militao, Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola through injury.
However, unlike the odd La Liga match that Zidane has had to shuffle his squad around to accommodate, Wednesday’s clash with Atalanta could make or break the club’s season and go on to decide whether the French coach will be sticking around at Madrid for much longer.
Such has been the fine margins by which Madrid have been conducting themselves this season. And without any additions to the squad in the past two transfer windows it’s beginning to look perfectly clear how much Zidane’s team will struggle to match their expectations this season.
This, naturally, seems to be a consequence of Madrid’s apparent efforts to save up enough money to sign Kylian Mbappe in the summer. Reports over the course of the last 12 months have suggested that the Spanish giants decided to bank their transfer budget for last summer to use in this coming transfer window.
Indeed, if Madrid are serious about signing the French striker then they’ll most likely need to pay over €100 million for his talents. And that has apparently meant no new players at the club since Reinier arrived from Flamengo in January 2020 for €30 million.
If Zidane’s team do get knocked out of the Champions League by Atalanta and subsequently fall behind in the title race, much will be made of the French coach’s ability to guide this team to future success next season. But the real questions that already need serious answers are how anyone at Madrid can expect Zidane and his side to challenge for trophies this season if all of the club’s budgets are still being put to one side to sign Mbappe.