It’s strange how life can throw you a curveball. When you think nothing is going right for you and you’re the only person that “life” is happening to. Neil Lennon and Celtic have been feeling that exact way for the last eight weeks and if the Celtic boss is looking for inspiration that things can turn around quickly, he just needs to take a glance over to La Liga and look at what is happening to the Galactico superstars of Real Madrid. The similarities are striking.
Zinedine Zidane’s men and Lennon’s Bhoys have found themselves in identical positions this season where performances and results have been mirrored, but not only that, the way Zidane has turned it around you would swear that Lennon has plagiarised ZZ’s fairy tale and is passing it off as his own.
Picture this. Madrid are currently in direct competition against their city neighbours, Atletico, in the fight for the title. Atletico are top of the table and found themselves favourites for the title. They have built a strong squad, with strength in depth and were sweeping all in front of them. Not only were they dominating games and scoring freely they were also very tight at the back, conceding only two goals in ten matches and winning seven games on the bounce.
Contrast that to Real, they had just been defeated by Cadiz, Aalves and Valencia and lost a double header to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. Donetsk smashed FIVE past the Galactico’s but couldn’t hit a barn door against anyone else. Facing Champions League humiliation and with a possibility of trailing Atletico by 12 points at the end of their next three fixtures , Zidane was under serious pressure and calls were mounting to replace the legendary Frenchman.
But how things changed in those next three fixtures. Madrid were victorious at Sevilla winning 1-0, defeated BMG in the Champions League to win the group and progress to the last 16 and then went on to defeat Atletico in La Liga, cutting their lead at the top to 6 points.
Zidane was gaining all the plaudits but in a true managerial masterclass, the Frenchman made the turnaround all about his players. Not once taking credit for the change in fortunes and now Real look a real force to be reckoned again with this season.
The similarities are staggering, the endings can be the same. Two clubs from two different universes, facing the same challenges. One has succeeded saving their season, there is no reason why the other cannot. Lennon, like ZZ, believes not only in himself but also in his players, and THAT is what can save Celtic’s season and Lennon’s job.
I originally wrote this article for The Celtic Blog and it has been republished and redistributed following kind permission from James Forrest, owner of The Celtic Blog