10) Karim Benzema (7900 minutes)
Now 31, the Frenchman has been the one player to step up – goals-wise at least – after the departure of Ronaldo; his 22-goal total this season is his best for three years. Although it’s worth noting that only Ronaldo has scored more goals under Zidane than Benzema, Madrid’s centre-forward position is clearly ripe for an upgrade.
9) Raphael Varane (8479 minutes)
Only so far down this list because of a series of injury problems, the Frenchman did undoubtedly establish himself as Zidane’s preferred partner to Sergio Ramos in central defence. Still only 25, it seems likely that Zidane will build his future Real defence around his fellow countryman.
8) Luka Modric (8535 minutes)
Now this one is fascinating. Modric has undoubtedly struggled this season, but is that because he is 33 or because his great manager Zidane has left? The current Ballon d’Or holder has enjoyed the shortest reign of any greatest player in the world, but can Zizou work his magic?
7) Daniel Carvajal (8608 minutes)
Similar to Varane in that injury and illness keep him down this list, because there’s no doubt that he was Zidane’s first-choice right-back. And the feeling was mutual, with Carvajal saying last year: “Zidane has changed a lot and now he is a much better coach and he knows how to manage us.”
6) Casemiro (8614 minutes)
“With Zidane he had a lot of relationships with the players, a father-son relationship. Like a friend,” said Casemiro, who became Zidane’s go-to defensive midfielder after initially struggling to win over the Frenchman. One of several players who started all three Champions League finals.
5) Marcelo (9392 minutes)
According to reports, one of Zidane’s first acts as the returning Real manager will be to try and persuade Marcelo to extend his 12-year spell at the club beyond this summer, when he is expected to join Ronaldo at Juventus. Under Zidane’s successor, Sergio Reguilón has taken his place as Real’s first-choice left-back.
4) Sergio Ramos (9617 minutes)
There was talk that he would be heading out of Real Madrid if they re-appointed Jose Mourinho, so he will be very happy indeed to see the return of his former manager. Apparently, he had a stand-up row with the Real president after the Champions League defeat to Ajax. Ramos and Zidane are close, with the Frenchman saying last year: “He is a leader, a captain and it has been a pleasure to share three more years with him.”
3) Toni Kroos (9721 minutes)
“Toni is perfect for Real Madrid. Our style has changed since he joined. I hope he stays with us for many years. He’s the piece of the puzzle that we were missing for a long time and he fits the Real Madrid philosophy perfectly,” said Zidane when he took over the first time. But Kroos has undoubtedly struggled under Santiago…
Here’s the video of Solari and Toni Kroos arguing pic.twitter.com/Tnnd0Dvupj
— S. (@SxRMCF) March 10, 2019
2) Keylor Navas (9990 minutes)
Here’s one man who will be very happy indeed about Zidane’s return. Despite the club’s attempts to upgrade Navas – first by signing David De Gea and then Kepa – Zidane stayed true to the Costa Rican, who was his goalkeeper throughout his reign. Thibaut Courtois may have to move aside again…
1) Ronaldo (10087 minutes)
You never know.