Isco: From Spain’s star to Plan B at Real Madrid

29 Mar 2018

The two great performances by Isco for Spain, particularly against Argentina where the 25-year-old scored a hat-trick, has reopened the debate about his situation at Real Madrid.

While he is the current star of the national team under Julen Lopetegui, the playmaker has returned to being a second option for Zinedine Zidane.

There is a question of confidence or style, but the reality is that there are two Iscos: one with La Roja, and one with Los Blancos.

“In the national team I have a confidence that in Madrid I do not,” said Isco after the game.

“Perhaps because I have not been able to earn it.”

With these words, it is clear that the Malaga-born playmaker does not feel the same support in Madrid as he does with the national team.

While the data shows that Isco has played in 40 games so far this season, the trust issue comes in relation to the big games.

Isco feels that in Madrid, he is the one who gets criticised when the team loses and is the first to get dropped when Madrid play another big team.

This season, after a brilliant start, he was sacrificed on December 23, perhaps the second most difficult moment of the campaign for the midfielder.

The most difficult moment occurred in the return leg of Madrid’s Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain, where Zidane opted for Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema, after Isco had played well in the first leg 3-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

In the 1-0 loss away at Espanyol too, Isco was substituted in the 69th minute while Zidane’s side chased a winner, perhaps encapsulating his situation with Los Blancos; when they needed him, he was on the bench.

The opposite happens with Spain: he knows that he will play and that is reflected in the confidence shown in his performances.

The matches against Italy, where he scored two goals, and Argentina, where he scored a hat-trick, show that he can be the star of Spain at the World Cup.

“It is not the coach who gives the confidence to Isco, but the player who gives the confidence to the coach,” said Lopetegui, who does not want to get in trouble with Zidane but does not hide that Isco is one of his weaknesses.

Under Lopetegui, Isco has played in 13 games, nine as a starter, and he has scored nine goals.

The detractors of Isco assure that the style of Madrid does not favour his skillset, with a more direct and rapid speed when compared to the style of Spain.

When Zidane took over the Madrid first team, he asked Isco for more goals and he has managed to score 20 goals in 105 games, with 18 of those in the past two seasons.

Contrary to the style of Isco is the persistence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who does not hide that he loves playing with Karim Benzema, and this means that there are two spots taken in the side; furthermore, the midfield trio of Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos is non-negotiable in the middle of the pitch.

Precisely, this is one of the main differences between Lopetegui and Zidane: for the national team Isco plays as a No. 10, while for Zidane there are 10 fixed players and a free space for Asensio, Bale, Lucas… or Isco.

Against Juventus in the Champions League, there will be a dilemma for Zidane.

Isco is coming off of two fantastic performances with Spain, but Asensio and Lucas were key in the second leg performance against PSG in Paris; this is surely a good problem for Zidane to have, though, with the best squad in the world.

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