World Cup 2018: Why Isco and his disco will get the credit that it deserves
The Real Madrid mixed-bag scenario
After having rejected a chance to join the former Los Blancos boss Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, the move had all the makings for being a life-changing one for the young Spaniard, who had gained deserved accolades for his performances in the U-21 Euros of 2013. And the move seemed a largely deserved one too.
Five years though, can change a lot. And things haven’t gone too well for Isco since that hyped switch to the Santiago Bernabeu. When he expressed his frustration at being a very underutilized talent at the Bernabeu following his sensational hat-trick against Argentina, it was no crime to realise that he was spot on.
Isco made only 21 starts for Zinedine Zidane’s men this season, scoring seven times and assisting just as many times in the La Liga. All that, despite the hype around Gareth Bale and his injury-prone season.
Often seen as a game-changer by many, Isco often makes Real look like a very cohesive side. Especially when he’s played on the right of the midfield that allows Dani Carvajal to bomb up and down the flank and that also initiates the slick movement of a side that can be deadly when allowed room to do so.
Remarkably so, the best part of Isco’s Real Madrid came during the last few games of the 2016-17 campaign, when he came up with a host of impressive showings to play a vital role in handing the club their second consecutive UEFA Champions League campaign.
Isco and his love affair with the Spain national team
For the quality of player that Isco is, he deserves much more than what he is getting at the Bernabeu. And it will be fair to say that the upcoming FIFA World Cup could well see the crowning of a man who deserves more credit than he gets.
That isn’t just because he gets more opportunity to play and shine for La Furia Roja, but because the way they play suits him far more than the way Real Madrid play. What Julen Lopetegui has brought to the table is something that has made Isco become his most important player, heading into the World Cup in Russia.
It relies on slick movement and intricate passing- the way the side used to play not long ago in around 2010. It may not be as good as those times with the players not as good as they were then, but Isco is someone who can make that system work. And he has done that every time he has played regularly under Lopetegui since the former Porto boss took over the reins.
While initially, Isco had to prove himself to become a regular after being dropped to the bench for the games against Macedonia and Albania, the stoppage time equalizer that he scored against England changed his fate to an extent.
After coming on to play the last twenty minutes against Gareth Southgate’s men, Isco managed to grab a last-ditch leveller for Lopetegui’s men in a game that the Three Lions probably deserved to win, lmao. This was followed up by a goal against Israel in a 4-1 pounding in the World Cup qualifiers.
As things stand, Isco has scored nine times and has racked up a tally of two assists in his last 13 appearances for Spain and all of them have come under Lopetegui. His hat-trick against Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina was a clear indication of how his role for the national side has now reached a level where he can use it to prove his actual might and prowess.
After that 6-1 win over the Argentine side, Isco gave an interview in which he said: "In Madrid I don't have the confidence a player needs.”
"The matches with the national team give me life, here I have the confidence of the coach. I want to show that I'm a good player."
And rightly so, the bond that he shares with Lopetegui is a one of mutual confidence and trust. There is nothing in the world that is more motivating than the manager having the utmost confidence in you and a player thrives on that. No matter how big the occasion is.
He has shown glimpses of his magic at Madrid too, be it in the La Liga, in the Champions League or in the UEFA Super Cup final against Manchester United. But he hasn’t been handed a consistent run in the first team side to pull off that magic in every game, thanks to the other so-called ‘better’ options that Madrid have at their disposal.
For Spain, he is usually the centre of everything. He dictates the tempo, sets people up, creates things, gets into dangerous areas and scores goals. And it isn’t as if he’s done that against the smaller sides only too.
The World Cup opportunity
When he left Marco Verratti reeling after having nutmegged him in Spain’s World Cup qualifier against Italy last year, it deservedly capped off a performance that should send shockwaves to every defensive line that will play in the World Cup.
There seems to be an aura of authority about him whenever he plays for the national side and it is almost as if he wants to rule the pitch to prove the top-class player that he is.
He has already done that. And how glad will Lopetegui be for that! There can’t be a better moment for Isco and his disco to get the credit that it deserves on an international stage. It won’t be a surprise if the man from Benalmadena brings the gilded trophy home for his country.