The Madrid-Barca Axis: Why Isco is indispensable at Real

I think most would agree that with a few exceptions, the prices being paid for players this summer are staggering, especially for those who aren’t any better than mediocre signings.

Of course this was always going to be the case in the Premier League where television revenue fees have skyrocketed over the past 3 years yet when you look across at Real Madrid, undoubtedly the best team in the world, it is interesting to wonder the market value of some of their stars.

Most of Real Madrid’s starting line-up are simply unattainable yet there is one player whom many have tried to sign in the last two years courtesy of a belief he is gettable, but the increasingly clear fact is that he is absolutely priceless in the current market and now indispensable to Zinedine Zidane.

It is of course Isco.


Isco’s coming out

Specific matches are often renowned as being the ‘coming out’ party for a player, the moment where they truly shone on a world stage to a huge audience.

Gareth Bale enjoyed his in the San Siro against defending Champions League holders Internazionale in 2010, Andres Iniesta was finally appreciated in England when he made Manchester United look ordinary in the 2009 Champions League final and for Isco, Tuesday’s UEFA Super Cup victory over Jose Mourinho’s United will be remembered as his moment.

Last season it was difficult for the Spaniard to truly break into Zidane’s plans and for much of the first-half of the campaign he found himself on the bench. In the end he made 30 La Liga appearances but it wasn’t until Bale’s injury concerns gave him a platform to perform that he made a case for his own position.

It is almost unthinkable now that around six months ago there was a suggestion from the Spanish capital that both James Rodriguez and Isco would be moved on in the summer. Rodriguez obviously never took to Zidane’s coaching style and vice versa, however Isco remained a wonderfully popular figure amongst supporters and the team actually functioned better with him in it from the start.

Contract issues saw Barcelona rumours appear around the time Los Blancos’ pursuit of a second successive Champions League trophy were hotting up although the former Malaga playmaker’s camp quickly put paid to such stories.


Real better when he starts

As the 25-year-old grew in importance to the French coach, his value to those in power at the club rose accordingly. An agreement on a new deal was struck shortly after the club’s victory over Juventus in Cardiff and is set to be signed any day now.

The simple fact is that Real Madrid are a much better team with Isco starting and Tuesday evening proved that. His current buyout clause of £135 million initially jumps off the paper as expensive but when you consider that Barcelona have tabled an offer which could reach up to £108 million for Coutinho, then Isco is surely priceless.

There are few footballers like him in world football. He is a natural no.10 who has been able to adapt as the modern game has, you can put him in the centre of midfield and he will create chances from anywhere.

He isn’t physically strong but is clever enough to win free-kicks and make dispossessing him almost impossible in any area of the pitch.


The man that shined the most in Skopje

If we recall the aforementioned Rome showpiece in which Iniesta simply kept the ball away from Manchester United, Isco did exactly the same in Skopje.

He dropped deeper into midfield and took the ball forward and he was also a threat in the final third as he quite simply avoided challenges and recycled possession.

He is helped of course by having some of the finest players in world football around him but he certainly more than matches them. He kept United out of the match for long periods of time, the five or so minutes leading up to the Spanish champions’ opening goal was eerily reminiscent of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona at their best.

They kept the ball for such a long spell and were dragging Mourinho’s defenders this way and that, it was only a matter of time before a goal was scored. Isco was central to that and in the end the pressure told as United’s back-line couldn’t do enough to prevent Casemiro sliding a clever finish past David de Gea.

The goal brought to an end a spell of intense pressure within a five minute microcosm of a football match. Real Madrid had the quality to completely take their opponents out of the game and it will serve them well in their pursuit of a third straight European Cup this season.


Bale’s biggest obstacle

For all the discussions surrounding a possible move for Kylian Mbappe and how that would impact Gareth Bale, it is in actual fact Isco who could present the biggest challenge to the Welshman’s guaranteed first-team status.

His ability to drift into pockets of space in any midfield position is incredibly useful and it makes Real Madrid so difficult to play against. Ever since his arrival from Malaga he has never really been treated as one of the stars of the club, despite the reverence which he has always been shown by supporters, yet now he is ready to help lead the team.

An interesting story emerged from Andy Mitten of ESPN on Wednesday that suggested Manchester United had in fact avoided a move for Isco previously as they felt his head was too big for his body. It may seem comical but it is rather incredible when you see the footballer he has become.


Priceless in Madrid

Potential was always clear for those who watched Isco as a young player and it was a great fear that he would be lost in the shuffle at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu but he has risen above his peers over time and is now seen as priceless in Madrid.

A new contract will be made official soon enough and with that comes the security that he is one of the club’s biggest stars and he will play the minutes in accordance with that throughout the campaign.

For the rest of Europe, Isco’s rise is an alarming reality check given the fact just last season he was considered as not a key player and now, on the eve of the 2017/18 season, it is difficult to pick out 5 midfielders better than him in world football.

For Real Madrid, the present is in incredibly good hands.


Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn

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