Rumours went into overdrive this past weekend (predominantly because it’s January) that Isco was on his way to Chelsea and that Roman Abramovich was intending to trigger the player’s release clause—currently sitting at a reasonably priced 21 million euros.
You can understand, partly, Chelsea’s intention to go after a youngster who is one of the hottest names in world football. Isco has been the centrepiece of Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga this season. He was instrumental in helping them secure Champions League football by finishing fourth last season, while his performances in the qualifying round against Panathinaikos were outstanding. With Chelsea going through a rebuilding/transitional phase, why wouldn’t they target him?
Well for starters, I find it incredibly difficult to understand why they’d have such a clear run at a player who is one of the two best youngsters in Europe. Malaga are looking to renegotiate the player’s contract in order to raise his buyout clause, but agreeing to sell him at this stage, with the likelihood of another trip into the Champions League next season, seems beyond senseless.
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The player is still young and is enjoying his football on the Costa del Sol. Yes, Malaga have their problems financially, but there are few managers in Europe who could help bring out the best in Isco in the way Pellegrini does. Isco knows his importance to Malaga, and even if a sale does occur at some stage this year, it’s unlikely to be now.
And what of Chelsea’s reported interest? They’re well-stocked in the attacking midfield position, and even if you eliminate Marko Marin from the equation, they still have Kevin De Bruyne playing some excellent football at Werder Bremen who will return in the summer.
But it’s all part of the master plan, the idea that these are the players Abramovich should target in order to replicate the Spanish style of football. And fair play to him, he’s looking at the right players. But do the players all feel that Chelsea is best for them?
Isco’s talents at the moment are only surpassed by one player of his age—Mario Gotze. Isco’s value, worth and projected status in a few short years has shot through the roof over the last 12 months. He’s currently good enough to play in Barcelona’s squad, he could reshape a struggling Premier League side looking for a spark of brilliance in the midfield. He’s better than anyone else, bar the German, in his age bracket; that includes, Jack Wilshere, Iker Muniain, Stephan El Shaarawy.
And it’s exactly for that reason that I see it incredibly unlikely that Chelsea have stolen a march on the rest of Europe. Where would Isco be better suited? Well Malaga for starters. He’s still only 20 and is a sure bet to start every week. He’s the talisman of the team, a youngster who’s been given the necessary guidance both from the dugout and from Joaquin. He displaced Santi Cazorla as the central figure in the midfield last season, helping somewhat to ease the transition when Cazorla moved to Arsenal. Isco, at this stage, is the closest thing we have to a replica of Andres Iniesta.
But that’s not to say he’ll be as good; it’s not to say he won’t be. Just that right now his style is extremely similar to that of the Barcelona midfielder.
It’s worth remembering that clubs like Real Madrid will be ready to make changes in their squad come the summer. Angel Di Maria hasn’t been up to scratch for most of the season and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if he was moved on. Talk has already filtered through that Luka Modric may be on his way out of the Bernabeu soon—wouldn’t he be a better target for Chelsea considering his position on the pitch? I’m sure Real Madrid would be one of the first in line to snap up Isco when Malaga, and importantly the player, decide the time is right.
The transfers of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard, among others, have shown that the smaller players can be a huge success in English football. If there were reservations about Isco’s size then those players in particular should ease those concerns. But it’s the numbers game, the issue that as of now Isco is not in danger of losing his place and disrupting his development. Nor is Mario Gotze, nor is Jack Wilshere, nor is Iker Muniain. At Chelsea, the story might be a little different.