Isco Alarcon Suarez, the new poster-boy of Spanish Football, the new Golden Boy of Spain, the bandy-legged bearded beauty (Thank you, Ray Hudson) …. Call him what you want but there is no denying the Malagueño’s silky skills and footwork. The Real Madrid maestro is another in a long line of talented midfielders, especially No.10s to don the colours of La Furia Roja……
Isco came through the youth ranks at Valencia CF before exploding into prominence with Malaga CF and the Spanish youth teams. He was one of the benefactors of the proposed Malaga revolution under Manuel Pellegrini. Pellegrini made him the creator-in-chief and he responded in kind with some dazzling performances in the league to much acclaim. Where he really caught the eye however, was in the Champions League. His brilliant first-touch, close control, dribbling skills, visionary passing and ability to chip in with crucial goals propelled Malaga to their first ever UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. This earned him the Golden Boy award and his excellent form continued with Spain at the European Under-21 Championships. While Pellegrini tried to take him to Manchester City to begin his next revolution, the lure of Real Madrid was too good to resist.
He made a blistering start to life at Madrid with a handful of goals and assists in his first few games. Shortly thereafter, Gareth Bale’s arrival resulted in Real going for a more dynamic and balanced approach with the now famous BBC (Bale-Benzema-Cristiano). Isco was benched and his lack of defensive nous and work-rate were cited as the main reasons. Despite winning the UEFA Champions League, Isco’s future was up-in the air with his style of play seen as counter-productive to Real’s fast attacks.
However, injuries to key players the following season saw Isco re-invent himself as a midfielder on the left side of a 3-man midfield. Not only did he showcase his attacking skill, but also on display were his newly added work-rate and defensive abilities. He played a key part in Real’s record breaking 22 game winning run and for a few months, he was the standout player in Spain. His fortunes and his position in the team have since become a hot topic in the media. Real’s ever changing political situation and revolving door of players has seen Isco in and out of the team. Nevertheless, despite being a utility player, his qualities have seen him garner a significant amount of playing time. Transfer rumors are never far from him but the reality is that he is one of the most-used players at Real after Ronaldo.
With the dust starting to finally settle at Real, it looks as though Isco has made-up his mind to stay at Real and compete for top honours. He appears to have won manager Zidane’s trust and he sees similarities in his own gameplay. When Isco signed for Real, his intention was to win many trophies. Being benched and played out of position where his impact is limited, were things that he didn’t see coming and this nearly resulted in him seeking greener pastures elsewhere. As things have turned out, Real Madrid appear to be in a stronger position than most to win titles; and in Zidane, have found a manager that will give Isco a lot of playing time. Isco also seems to have realized this and unless something drastic happens, seems content to play in a slightly deeper midfield role.
Key Talking Points
Zidane vs Ancelotti
I personally think that in order to fulfill his potential as the torchbearer of Spanish football (and the so-called heir to Iniesta), he needs to be given a free role just behind the forwards. That would unleash his creative talents and could prove to be a hugely successful move.
Whether Zidane decides to play with such a strategy remains to be seen. After all, wasn’t Ozil sold because of his poor movement ? As a player, Zidane pulled off unbelievable feats with the ball and had limited defensive work. The free playmaker’s role seems to be a dying breed in modern football. Most attackers, especially at top teams are expected to be all-rounders capable of playing in multiple positions and perform their defensive duties.
During Ancelotti’s reign at Madrid, Di Maria proved to be such an engine in midfield that none of the famed BBC had a great amount of defensive work. As a result, they were able to unleash their full attacking potential. Under Zidane so far, no one has been freed from defensive duties with Ronaldo and Bale helping out significantly in defense. In order to give Isco full license to attack, he would have to find another Di Maria or sacrifice a member of the BBC and play an extra-midfielder. Perhaps he could use a member of the BBC as a false midfielder without upsetting the balance of the team.
Zidane was always known for his ingenuity as a player and this could be his most ingenious move yet. Whatever he decides to do, it is refreshing to see classic old school play-makers such as Isco succeeding in an era where power and ruthless efficiency dominate. It proves that elegance and artistry can succeed with the right personnel and strategy. What is football without joie de vivre ? Joga Bonito !!