Lots of transfer interest, but is he the real deal?
Onlookers would be forgiven for assuming that Malaga star Isco was a product of the famous La Masia, or perhaps even of Real Madrid’s cantera. The reality is that Isco was moved on by Valencia last year for a very small fee, arguably a greater loss than parting ways with David Villa, David Silva or Juan Mata. He arrived at the new-look Malaga without much experience in the top-flight, but Santi Cazorla’s move to Arsenal this summer has paved the way for Isco to become a superstar in the making in Spanish football and a treasure chest for the La Liga club lucky enough to possess his signature.
He took his chance with both hands when Manuel Pellegrini opted to give Isco a key role in a midfield consisting of Cazorla and Joaquin. He’s never shied away from the weight of expectation on Malaga, while he displays the maturity and confidence to really exert his technical powers among the very best. He’s a player that can effortlessly slot into the midfield at Barcelona, and he’s already spoken of as one of the many natural replacements in the national team setup for Xavi Hernandez.
Does he tick all the boxes? Absolutely. He’s a typical, technically gifted Spanish footballer, but with a little bit of bite to his game as well. He was red-carded last season for a nasty tackle in a game against Sevilla in January, but it’s hardly something to praise him for. Instead, it’s a good indicator that he can take care of himself in a potential environment where there’ll be no shortage of players looking to show him the harshness of English football.
He’s a player who can turn a game on it’s head. He’ll turn nothing into something for the very best while competing inside the fiery caldrons of European football. His two goals against Zenit in the opening week of the Champions League group stage were outstanding, the second of which being something that even Ballon d’Or holders would be envious of. Lets not forget that Zenit are veterans in European competition compared to Malaga, and who also boast the recent big money signings of Hulk and Axel Witsel.
It was also Isco who really drove Malaga to the Champions League proper and helped to see off a very hostile and difficult opposition in Panathinaikos. Again, he was mature and hardly troubled by the occasion and the real emphasis on Malaga needing Champions league football this season. He’s a player that excites. He will do so much more than just walk into a side a open up a defence every now and then; he’ will give his team and manager and fans hope and belief that victory can be achieved and the difficulties at hand will be overcome. It’s no real surprise then that Malaga are third in the La Liga table ahead of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Bilbao, Valencia, and with Mallorca on joint points and Barcelona topping the league.
It’s also no real surprise that Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs have been linked with him in recent months. Arsenal, naturally, went after the player as well, perhaps looking to capitalise once again on Malaga’s unfortunate financial situation.
At this stage, it seems very unclear where the best destination would be should he arrive in England in the near future. He’s a creative midfielder in the mould of the current greats of the Spanish game, but he doesn’t play from deep midfield positions. Should that rule out Manchester United? Sir Alex Ferguson has already brought in a player in Shinji Kagawa who operates in the central role behind the forward. Isco’s versatility, however, does mean he’s equally impressive from the wide positions. He’s an excellent dribbler of the ball and knows how to retain possession in even the tightest of areas. And I certainly wouldn’t be too concerned with the player’s slight build. As mentioned, he has plenty of fight in him even at 20.
Despite his age, Iker Muniain seems to have been on the scene for many years. The Bilbao youngster is also hailed as the leading star of the next generation of Spanish footballers. But Isco is giving him a real run for his money. Isco is taking all the headlines with his performances and he’s leading his club out of the darkness and into what is hopefully a bright new future.