It was only a year ago that Isco was being tipped to lead the next generation of Spanish footballers.
That’s not to say the Real Madrid midfielder has lost any of his spark or is no longer worthy of retaining his standing among his contemporaries. But it’s no secret that Isco has become lost in the shuffle at the Bernabeu. He didn’t feature as prominently as he would have liked last season, while the recent arrivals of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez have further complicated his situation in the Spanish capital.
Last season, Carlo Ancelotti made an attempt to develop Isco’s game from attack-minded midfielder into something more akin to what we saw from Clarence Seedorf during his days at Milan. Despite a stunning start to life at Real Madrid, in which Isco scored three in his first three league games, the former Malaga playmaker fell victim to Ancelotti’s need to accommodate each of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, while also having to retain Angel Di Maria in the starting XI due to the Argentine’s form.
But now with the addition of Kroos as another option for the centre of midfield, and even with Sami Khedira set to leave, Isco may come across similar frustrations that halted his development at the Bernabeu last season.
Is it time, then, for a move for the 22-year-old?
It would be an enormous shame if Isco were to be sacrificed, especially as James Rodriguez doesn’t really offer much more than the former Malaga midfielder.
Not only that, but Real Madrid fans have been longing for something akin to what they’ve seen at Barcelona in recent seasons; not necessarily the success, but the involvement of so many homegrown players. Isco, signing for Real last summer, was joined by Asier Illarramendi and Dani Carvajal, as well as the full promotions of Nacho Fernandez, Alvaro Morata and Jese Rodriguez from Castilla. Jese, Illarramendi, Isco, and Carvajal are all certainly good enough to be regular starters at the club for years to come.
But for Isco in particular, that may not be possible due to Florentino Perez’s propensity to fall for the latest big name in world football.
Would, therefore, a move to Manchester City be a good option for the Spaniard, the team who rivalled Real for his signature last summer? Provided City can get around the restrictions enforced by Financial Fair Play, and can convince Real to sell, linking up with Manuel Pellegrini would be the best career move for the midfielder.
It was Pellegrini who signed Isco for Malaga, bringing him in from relative obscurity at Valencia and helping him to flourish into the player we know today. At Malaga, Pellegrini moved the more senior and far more experienced Santi Cazorla into other positions in the midfield, either to the centre of the pitch or on the wing, in order to accommodate Isco in a central attacking role. When Cazorla moved to Arsenal in 2012, Isco became the hub of the Malaga team, guiding them into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
It also wouldn’t be too far off to say Manchester City need someone like Isco. They already have David Silva and Samir Nasri, but both can suffer from dips in form, while Nasri is often preferred on the flank. City are a team with an ageing star midfielder in Yaya Toure, and while Isco is in no way similar to the 31-year-old Ivorian, he can become just as important and influential in the near future.
For Real Madrid, it’s about creating a juggernaut that can build on the latest European Cup win with further domestic and international titles. That doesn’t just happen with a good XI. Ronaldo has spent the majority of his career in Spain free of injury, but the Portuguese international suffered towards the end of last season. Gareth Bale, too, may pick up injury scares, as could any of the other players who would normally be deemed starters in Ancelotti’s team.
The problem is Isco is too good to be a peripheral figure, only stepping in when needed. This is a player who was likened to Andres Iniesta in the recent past. It’s not absurd. The 22-year-old shares many similarities in style to that of the Barcelona man. If we’re going to compare Illarramendi to Xabi Alonso – and it’s been done countless times – we’re naturally going to do the same with Isco and Iniesta.
Isco should see more game time at a club like City, because they’re in need of someone like him to better themselves from where they were last season. Thus far, the club have only made defensive signings, Alvaro Negredo is out long term with injury, and questions remain over the fitness of Sergio Aguero.
Real Madrid didn’t need James this summer. Perez may have needed the satisfaction of being the centre of summer attention once again, especially after the capture of La Decima, but the team were certainly not in need of the Colombian at this time.
Uncertainty over Isco’s immediate playing future at the club has only grown. A move away may be best for the development of a player who can be one of Europe’s absolute best midfielders in a short amount of time.