James Rodriguez and/or Isco have to leave Real Madrid to reach their potential
Will these two stars ever find their peak at the Bernabeu or does a move beckon?
Chapter I: Two Kings Dethroned
The German cut a frustrated figure on the bench. After all, a young Spaniard had taken over his throne instantly after his arrival—something that was his for 3 years. Mesut Ozil was indispensable under Jose Mourinho but was now reduced to a substitute by Isco Alarcon, who had just come off the back of a breakthrough season with Malaga.
Pride was hurt. Ultimately, the former Werder Bremen player was sold to Arsenal for a figure of £42.5 million, a club record for a fee received from a sale.
A year later. Different players. Same story.
Reports suggested that an Argentine was unhappy at the wages he got—and why wouldn’t he be? Despite being the club’s most important player in their La Decima glory, he was among the lowest paid footballers at Real Madrid.
The Blancos didn’t show any signs of concern. For them, a replacement was already signed; someone who had already done better than Angel di Maria on the commercial front. James Rodriguez sold more jerseys in his first week as a Real Madrid player than di Maria could in his entire time with the Galacticos.
So, after not coughing up the wages the former Benfica player requested for, Angel di Maria left for Manchester United for another club record selling price of £59.2 million.
Two players. Two kings. Two record transfer incomes.
Chapter II: No Place to Call Home
Both Isco and James are attacking midfielders who operate at their best behind a striker. They are two different, yet classic, type of number 10s—and that is where the problem lies.
In Real Madrid’s 4-3-3, the central attacking midfield position doesn’t exist. And with the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro in the team, playing the Colombian and the Spaniard in the trivote over any of them would just lopsidedly imbalance the system, something that we have already witnessed.
Hence, Los Galacticos have two players for a position that doesn’t even exist in their system. And both of them have no place to call their own.
Chapter III: The makeshift scenario
Since it is impossible to change the system, and even more so to completely neglect the duo, a make-shift approach has been used to give them some playing time.
Both James and Isco have been played as the left-sided midfielder in the trivote, and the results haven’t been as pleasing—especially with the former. While James has also been used in the wings, his performances for Real Madrid have been a far-cry in comparison to his displays with Colombia, where he plays behind the striker.
The player that took the World Cup 2014 by storm hasn’t yet arrived at Real Madrid, and he won’t either—not as a deep midfielder or a winger, anyway.
With Isco, the results have been slightly better. He seems to be more suited to the deeper role than his Colombian team-mate. However, the Isco of Malaga only turned up a handful of times for Real Madrid—and it happen in the first few games when he was playing in attacking midfield.
Chapter IV: The wastage
The amount of talent that these two possess is something most players would kill for. In their natural positions, they are two of the finest players in the world and can dictate the flow of the attack with their mesmerizing abilities.
Both of them have their tricks to get around defenders and score or assist from their zones. While Isco’s close control has only a few peers, James’ sleekness could rarely be found in anyone else.
Unfortunately, however, both of them find themselves warming the bench at the Bernabeu. With a system that doesn’t bring the best of out of them, they have been forced to play second fiddle despite having the caliber of showstoppers.
And even when they play, it is a wastage of ability as they are not operating in their natural positions. Borrowing the words of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it is like driving a Ferrari like a Fiat.
Chapter V: Throne Awaits Afar
In any other club, they would be kings—the system would rotate around them. Almost every attack would go through them as they would be the orchestrators of almost every move that happens in the opposition’s zone.
At Real Madrid, with so many star players, it is impossible for the manager to build a system to bring the best out of one player. However, if Isco and James go to another club, it is almost certain that they would play in their favoured position, bringing the best out of them and their team-mates in the process.
Even if a club doesn’t have the position of an attacking midfielder in the system, they would carve out one in order to use the former Malaga and Porto star. Or, instead, give them complete freedom to roam around without any defensive obligations.
And this would ooze out the optimum eminence from the two.
Chapter VI: The Conclusion
It is likely that one of them will be sold in this window, and it would be the wise thing to do for both the club and the player that leaves. At this point of time, it seems like James is the one that would be shipped off since Isco has adapted better to the deeper role than he has.
At any other club, they would play in their best position and, hence, reach their full potential. At the peak of their powers, these players could actually be fighting for the Ballon d’Or someday, but it doesn’t seem likely if they stay at Real Madrid.