Zidane got everything wrong – Mijatovic fears Real Madrid boss will pay for Champions League exit

By Sports Desk May 05, 2021

Zinedine Zidane "got everything wrong" in Real Madrid's Champions League loss to Chelsea and could pay the price, Predrag Mijatovic has warned.

Madrid were beaten 2-0 by Chelsea in the second leg on Wednesday as Timo Werner and Mason Mount secured a 3-1 aggregate win in the semi-final.

It could have been a far more convincing scoreline had the Blues been more clinical at Stamford Bridge, while Madrid, who had 68 per cent of the ball, had only one shot on target after the 36th minute.

With Sergio Ramos back but the likes of Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez injured, Zidane opted for a 3-4-3 system in which his players rarely looked comfortable.

Edouard Mendy made two good saves from Karim Benzema in the first half but the Chelsea goalkeeper was largely a spectator as he kept an eighth clean sheet in the competition this season, a record for a goalkeeper at an English club.

Madrid could still end the season by defending their league title – they trail leaders Atletico Madrid by just two points with four games left – but former Madrid striker Mijatovic fears the loss to Chelsea may inflict lasting damage.

"Chelsea were really superior in everything: intensity, rhythm, creating chances. We like Zidane and he's done many things, but he got everything wrong," he told Cadena Ser.

"This tie will do a lot of damage to Zidane. So did the previous year, although the league covered some things. Zidane has got a lot of things wrong and that resulted in Madrid's elimination.

"When they started the game and you saw they didn't want to change the picture, with poor Vinicius playing in a position that isn't his, Madrid did practically nothing.

"The team went out totally confused, without knowing what to do. We'll see what happens in LaLiga. The feelings you get from Madrid offer little to think the season will end well."

Former Madrid goalkeeper Santiago Canizares praised Mendy for his decisive saves from Benzema, which ensured Chelsea took a 1-0 lead into half-time.

"Chelsea are not just physical. They have really good tactics and a great attacking and defensive balance. They're a very tough nut to crack," he said.

"We didn't see phases of superiority from Madrid. The two chances Madrid had where from Benzema, but Mendy won the game."

Zidane guided Madrid to three consecutive Champions League triumphs from 2016 to 2018, but they lost at the last-16 stage in the previous two seasons before succumbing to Chelsea this time.

Midfielder Casemiro, who feels Madrid have been left with little in the tank after a challenging year with injuries, felt their defeat proved just what a remarkable run it was to win the tournament three years running.

"We were better in the first 25 minutes, we had two chances with Karim," he said. "Then they played better, they had more chances, but there's no turning back now, we have to think about LaLiga.

"I think Chelsea were superior and played better than us. After the year we've had with injuries, absences, COVID, without fans... we've tried. But they were better. We can't be sad now, we have to think about Sevilla [on Saturday].

"We showed that what we did was historic. It's not easy to win the Champions League. We showed again that it's not easy to win this."

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    Jurgen Klopp put the Premier League and Europe's elite on notice when he warned Mohamed Salah's best years at Liverpool are still to come.

    Superstar forward Salah has ended speculation about his short-term future by signing a three-year contract with the Reds, news that manager Klopp said "makes me smile thinking about it".

    It means there is no danger of the Egyptian walking away as a free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season, and with the deal agreed before the start of the new campaign, there should be no more distractions when it comes to the 30-year-old's future.

    Salah has had five successful seasons at Anfield already, helping Liverpool win the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, EFL Cup, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup. Inevitably, this had drawn admiring glances from the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    His arrival from Roma has been one of the best pieces of business during Klopp's reign, and now Salah is staying around to spearhead the push for more success.

    Klopp said he was "really pleased – really, really pleased", adding: "It's the best decision for us and best decision for him. He belongs with us, I think. This is his club now.

    "I have no doubt Mo's best years are still to come. And that's saying something, because the first five seasons here have been the stuff of legend."

    Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Klopp raved about the physical power of Salah, an often overlooked aspect of his game. His silky skills and finishing prowess grab the focus, with Salah scoring 31 goals and adding 15 assists in 51 games last season.

    However, Klopp said: "Fitness-wise, he's a machine – in the most incredible shape. He works hard on it, and he gets his rewards. His ability and his skill level gets higher each season, and his decision-making has gone to another level also.

    "He is adored by his team-mates. As coaches, we know we work with someone special. And the supporters have crowned him a king. So, very cool.

    "It is just great news. It makes me smile thinking about it. He stays with us for longer, and it means we can achieve more together."

    Liverpool fell agonisingly short of an unprecedented quadruple last season, winning the FA Cup and EFL Cup before losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League final and being denied the Premier League title by Manchester City on a dramatic final day of that campaign.

    All the time, doubts lingered over whether Salah would make a long-term commitment to Liverpool, or whether he might soon move on.

    "Of course it has taken a little time," said Klopp, "but that's absolutely okay, and the best things are always worth waiting for anyway.

    "Mo is one of the best players in the world; it's only normal there are things to sort when you are at his level."

    Klopp said sporting director Julian Ward and Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon deserved "big credit" for getting the deal over the line.

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    It is difficult to remember now, but Salah's arrival from Roma in a deal rising to £43million raised more than a few eyebrows due to his disappointing earlier spell with Chelsea.

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    The 30-year-old has made 254 appearances for the Reds in total, 235 of those being starts, and has scored 156 goals while assisting 58 more.

    Those 156 goals rank him ninth on the list of Liverpool's record scorers, with considerable ground to make up on Ian Rush at the top of that list with 346 goals.


    CLOSING IN ON GERRARD RECORD

    Salah might struggle to overhaul Rush, but he will also have another record in his sights when the 2022-23 campaign gets up and running next month.

    With 164 direct goal involvements in the Premier League, Salah trails only Steven Gerrard (212) among Reds players in the competition in that regard.

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    Kylian Mbappe, seen by many as the most desirable player in world football, is fourth on that list on 163 goal involvements, while Ciro Immobile is fifth with 159.


    PREMIER LEAGUE PEDIGREE

    Salah has scored 118 goals for Liverpool in the Premier League alone, which is 13 more than next-best Harry Kane among all clubs since the start of the 2017-18 season.

    Those strikes have helped Salah to three Golden Boot awards – only Arsenal legend Thierry Henry (4) has finished top of the competition's scoring charts more often.

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    However, one metric he does not lead is assists, with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne boasting 58 to Salah's 46.


    MORE TO COME FROM MO

    Salah's output has been consistent across his five years at Anfield, starting between 45 and 49 games a season and registering double figures for assists in all but one of those campaigns.

    He has remained a prolific scorer throughout, with a high of 44 goals in the 2017-18 season and a low – but still respectable – 23 in the 2019-20 campaign. The latter was the season when Liverpool won the Premier League.

    The Al Mokawloon youth product has managed 31 goals in each of the past two seasons, while the 15 assists registered last season was a career-high.

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    Uncertainty over the Egyptian forward's future had lingered for months, with no clear sign of a breakthrough in negotiations between the club and the player's representatives until a deal was announced on Friday.

    With Sadio Mane being allowed to leave for Bayern Munich since the end of last season, the importance of securing Salah was ramped up, and now the 30-year-old has confirmed he will stay at Anfield.

    He could have walked away at the end of the 2022-23 season on a free transfer, had he not agreed to new terms, but that worrying prospect has been quashed.

    With at least three years more to come of his Anfield career, Salah is convinced he and Liverpool can enjoy huge success in that time.

    They threatened a quadruple last term before just missing out to Manchester City in the Premier League title race and losing 1-0 to Real Madrid in the Champions League final, having already pouched the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

    Salah said of his new deal: "It takes a little bit of time, I think, to renew, but now everything is done so we just need to focus on what’s next.

    "I think you can see in the last five or six years the team was always going [upwards]. Last season we were close to winning four, but unfortunately in the last week of the season we lost two trophies.

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    In an interview for Liverpool's official website, Salah spoke of the departure of Mane to the Bundesliga and the arrival of Uruguayan frontman Darwin Nunez from Benfica, as manager Jurgen Klopp shuffles his pack.

    "I'm so excited, I want to play with him," Salah said of Nunez. "He had a good season last season and played well against us home and away [in the Champions League].

    "Sadio's leaving, and I'm going to miss him, he had great seasons with the club, so I wish him all the best, and I wish Darwin also all the best to score many goals for us."

    Salah had a stellar 2021-22 campaign, finishing level with Tottenham's Son Heung-min in the race to be the Premier League's top scorer, while also managing the most assists in the competition, racking up 13 to finish one ahead of team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold.

    It was the third time that Salah has won the Premier League's Golden Boot, having also been top scorer in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns.

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