Real Madrid 2019/20 Review: End of Season Report Card for Los Blancos

Sergio Ramos
Ramos has had a goalscoring season that would put most strikers to shame | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Year One of Zinedine Zidane's rebuild in his second spell at the Santiago Bernabéu has passed, and the initial results look promising, though interrupted by the occasional hiccup.

Like any good Real Madrid season, this one was not without a couple of trophies. But unlike a lot of great Real Madrid seasons, there was a decidedly different feel about the side - youthful, a little bit goal-shy, and above all defensively formidable (apart in from that Champions League tie against Manchester City).

Let's have a closer look, which will appropriately end with a report card grade, at a mixed season for Real Madrid's youngsters.

League Performance

La Liga - 1st

Zinedine Zidane
It's an especially satisfying title win for Zidane this year | Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

You know it's a pretty good title win when Zidane says it's better than any of the three Champions Leagues that he has won at Real.

To borrow some terminology from Sir Alex Ferguson, it's been pretty difficult to knock Barcelona off their perch in recent years, with four of the last five La Liga titles going to Madrid's deathly rivals, and this year looked no different, with Barca two points ahead of Madrid before the league was suspended.

What followed was the stuff of true Champions from Madrid - with Quique Setien's side faltering, Zidane's men were just getting started, and won ten games in a row to turn their deficit into a five-point lead.

Vinicius Junior
Vinícius Júnior was the star in a big win over Barcelona | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Of course, plenty of people (not me!) will point towards the five penalties scored by Madrid within this run as evidence of some good fortune in tight matches, but it's also true that penalties have to be won in the first place.

What's all the more impressive is that Madrid took the trophy home without a particularly productive goalscoring year from anyone other than Karim Benzema and centre-back Sergio Ramos - Casemiro was their third-top league goalscorer with a paltry four goals.

Complain as Barcelona might about refereeing decisions, it was Zidane masterminding a tight Clasico win in March which really set the stage for an much-needed Los Blancos title win.

Domestic Cup Performance

Copa del Rey - Quarter-finals

Alexander Isak
Former Borussia Dortmund striker Alexander Isak stunned Madrid in February | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Madrid started their Copa del Rey campaign in routine enough fashion, eliminating Real Zaragoza and minnows Unionistas - Gareth Bale (remember him!) even scored against the latter.

But it all unravelled in chaotic fashion at home to the Basque stumbling block of Real Sociedad.

As if Real loanee Martin Ødegaard scoring the opener for Sociedad wasn't bad enough, Los Blancos found themselves three goals down after a salvo from Alexander Isak, and despite rallying, fell to a 4-3 defeat and a Copa del Rey campaign to forget.

Supercopa de España - Winners

Federico Valverde, Alvaro Morata
Valverde's professional foul on Morata saved the game for Real | Francois Nel/Getty Images

New format? More teams? No problem for Real Madrid, who 'avenged' a 7-3 defeat to old enemies Atletico Madrid in pre-season by beating them on penalties in a final which will be remembered for a truly perfect act of brutality from Federico Valverde.

Having brushed aside Valencia 3-1 in the competition's semi-final, Madrid had taken Atleti to extra time in the unfamiliar surroundings of the King Abdullah Sports City stadium, but were suddenly in jeapordy with Álvaro Morata clean through.

'It's something you shouldn't do,' was Valverde's later sheepish assessment, having received a red card for scything Morata down, but it helped Madrid get through to a shootout and clinch yet another extra-time win against their long-suffering rivals.

Continental Cup Performance

Champions League - Round of 16

Kevin De Bruyne
Manchester City had a little too much class for Madrid - but they'll be back next season | David Ramos/Getty Images

The surest guarantee of a succesful Champions League season has usually been having Zinedine Zidane as your manager, so unsurprisingly it took a special opposition performance, with some uncharacteristic Madrid errors, to remove the competition's greatest ever team from contention.

After going down 3-0 to PSG on the first Champions League matchday, Madrid would have an ever-so-slightly choppy passage through the group stage, almost facing the ignominy of a loss to Club Brugge after going 2-0 down to the Belgian side at half time.

They recovered in that match, and in their group, but the issue was a second place finish put them up against none other than Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. The resilient Cityzens fought hard for an away win at the Bernabeu, before swarming the Madrid backline back in Manchester, forcing two rare blunders from Raphael Varane to send Zidane packing from the Champions League for the first time in his career.

Best Player

Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema has been the glue which makes a patchy Real Madrid frontline work | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

With Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus and Gareth Bale preferring the fairway to the football pitch, the BBC of yore is now just the B, but the B in question in Karim Benzema has created quite the buzz.

Eden Hazard's first season in Madrid has been hampered by injury, meaning that Benzema has to work with talented but raw wingers Rodrygo and Vinícius Júnior, both of whom are arguably a little too young to constitute a major goalscoring threat just yet.

Benzema, however, has adopted the role of the main man with aplomb, continuing to drop deep to feed the wingers but taking on more responsibility as a pure goalscorer. The result? He's been the best babysitter you could ask for, dragging Madrid's kids through a difficult transitional season towards that all-important silverware.

Worst Player

Gareth Bale
Bale seems to have lost any interest in playing actual football for Madrid | Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

On the one hand, his handicap must be amazing now.

On the other hand, Bale, a winger who still has so much more to offer in the game, has seemingly frozen himself not just out of Real Madrid but the sport of football altogether.

The man who spends more time at the driving range than driving at defenders has a weekly wage which no other club in world football could possibly justify paying for a player his age, but is barely in Zidane's plans any more? As a consequence the former world's most-expensive player has appeared just 16 times in all competitions, registering a barely noteworthy two goals.

The Manager

Zinedine Zidane
Zidane's calmness is a huge asset to Madrid | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Any Real Madrid manager is at all times operating in the eye of a raging storm, mediating between expectant fans, superstar players and an impatient owner in Florentino Pérez. Such was the problem for Madrid last season, with Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari ultimately not able to stand up to the unprecedented levels of pressure which the job entails.

Enter, for the second time, Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman's gift is to channel this pressure into order, to know what to do with big egos and crucially, to organise them into a structure which almost guarantees success.

Though he has no clear tactical style, he adapts to what is available, as in Madrid's notably more parsimonious side of this season. Regardless of what lies ahead, he has organised a group of talented but inexperienced players into something coherent, and the future looks bright for a young, hungry and ambitious Madrid team.

Overall Grade

Some extra lessons in attacking football might be necessary, while a serious examination in Europe was sadly failed. But overall some promising achievements over the course of a trying year.

B+