March 17, 2019 / 6:37 AM / 10 days ago

Soccer: Happiness is back for Real with Zidane return, says Navas

MADRID (Reuters) - After a topsy-turvy campaign and a “tragic” week which saw their hopes of any silverware disappear, Real Madrid were all smiles again at the Bernabeu after Zinedine Zidane’s return as coach was celebrated with a 2-0 victory over Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Celta Vigo - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - March 16, 2019 Real Madrid's Karim Benzema is embraced by coach Zinedine Zidane after being substituted off REUTERS/Susana Vera

“Happiness has returned to the dressing room and that’s the most important thing,” Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas told reporters.

“The past is the past, the group is working well. I don’t know if we needed a change or not but the club thought it was necessary.

“Zidane has spoken to each one of individually and now we need to be professionals and work hard.”

Isco gave Real a deserved lead in the second half in the Madrid sunshine and Gareth Bale further raised spirits by sealing victory later in the game.

Along with Isco and defender Marcelo, the Costa Rican Navas was one of the main beneficiaries of Zidane’s return 10 months after the Frenchman had walked out on the club having won an unprecedented three consecutive Champions League crowns.

Navas, Real’s number one in each of those triumphs, had been relegated to second choice with the signing of Thibaut Courtois and had only made three league starts before getting the nod ahead of the Belgian against Celta.

“I had not played for a very long time so I’m happy, we’ll see what happens in the future,” Navas added.

“The most important thing is I worked very hard to get an opportunity and today I got one.”

Real defender Alvaro Odriozola also spoke of a change in atmosphere with the return of Zidane, who is Real’s third coach Real of the season after the sacking of Julen Lopetegui in October and Santiago Solari last Monday.

Solari won his final game in charge of Real last week at Valladolid but his fate had already been sealed by two defeats to Barcelona and the humiliating 4-1 loss to Ajax Amsterdam which ended the team’s iron grip on the Champions League.

“We are all very excited, we have renewed hope after that tragic week,” said Odriozola.

“We have to look to the future, end this season with honour and try to win the remaining 10 games. We have to stay focused on competing and not thinking about who is playing or who isn’t. Instead, we all need to give 100 percent.”

Midfielder Dani Ceballos added: “It looks like us changing our coach worked. We have recovered some sensations we had lost and we have got the three points. Now our objective is to win all the games left and finish the season as well as possible.”

Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ian Chadband

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