FIFA Club World Cup, FIFA World Cup

  • Real Madrid are aiming for their fourth Club World Cup
  • They kick off their campaign in Abu Dhabi on 19 December
  • We analyse the management style of their new head coach, Santiago Solari

Santiago Solari is the temporary solution who ended up as a permanent appointment. And having successfully guided his team to qualification for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, the Argentinian is now preparing to face his first great challenge as manager of Real Madrid: defending the FIFA Club World Cup. Will the team’s trip to Abu Dhabi bring Solari his first silverware in charge of Los Merengues?

“Things have changed since Solari came in,” acknowledged captain Sergio Ramos when he spoke with “With a new coach, the intensity and attitude go up a notch, which has a positive effect on the team. In the little time that we’ve worked with him, the results have been good.”

Let’s take a look at the key features behind the management style that Solari has brought to Real Madrid.

The first thing the new coach asked of his players: “No player has been first choice forever just because of their name,” he warned. True to his word, Solari has made no bones about sidelining players who fail to perform at the required level. “I don’t believe in the idea of a fixed starting eleven,” the coach reiterated a few days ago. The statistics speak for themselves: in the nine games played since he took charge, the Argentinian has used his entire squad (apart from the third- and fourth-choice goalkeepers). That willingness to rotate has heightened the sense of competitive tension among his players.

The six years that Solari spent with Real Madrid’s youth teams left its mark. He knows the young prospects knocking on the door of the first team better than anyone and understands how to get the very best from them. Players like Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente and Sergio Reguilon have been given more game time, contributing renewed energy and no small amount of talent. Their presence has brought a breath of fresh air to the team, while also giving the youngsters more experience at the highest level.

According to Sergio Ramos, there is one key factor that has played in the new coach’s favour. “Having been a player at this club, he has an intimate knowledge of what Real Madrid is. That really helps in a dressing room like ours.”

Change is never easy, but the transition following the departure of Julien Lopetegui went smoothly. The dressing room accepted him as one of their own and everything flowed from there. “He knows his football. That gives us a lot of confidence,” agreed Karim Benzema.

Solari at a glance

  • Born in Rosario on 7 October 1976
  • Played for Real Madrid between 2000 and 2005
  • Also played for River Plate, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and San Lorenzo
  • Won the Champions League, the Intercontinental Cup, two domestic league titles, two Spanish Super Cups and the UEFA Super Cup with Los Merengues
  • Started his coaching career with Real Madrid Castilla (2016-18)

In a little over two months, Solari has gone from competing in the third tier of Spanish football to defending the Club World Cup. One thing is for sure: his management style will face its sternest test yet in Abu Dhabi.

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