Just 4 months after joining Real Madrid, it was indicative of the impact Isco has had in the capital that he arrived in Alicante to play Elche on Wednesday night with comparisons to Zinedine Zidane ringing in his ears. In his first six games in the white shirt of Madrid, Isco has scored five goals, made two assists and turned in some outstanding, controlled midfield performances full of verve, zeal and energy.
It has been a remarkable introduction to life at the Bernabeu for the 21 year old talent who has arrived with the pressure of a €30 million price tag, which only heightened the burden and massive odds against him by various betting sites such as Sports Betting Pal. When his new manager Carlo Ancelotti was asked what his assistant Zidane thought of those comparisons, he said the Frenchman had answered, “no not yet, but he could be very close in future”.
“He is very similar to Zidane in terms of ability and mentality” said Ancelotti, “for Isco to be compared with Zidane is not bad after the few games he has played”.
Ancelotti and Zidane however will be wise enough to understand the need for their young midfielder’s promise to be managed carefully given the infancy of his career at a club that constantly attracts huge pressure. The early hype and expectancy that will inevitably swarm around Isco if his form continues at such a dramatic rate will have to be watched with caution.
After all, the Spanish international is only 21 and has undergone a phenomenal rise since emerging into Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga side after successful year with Valencia’s B side in 2011.
It could be argued that likening the midfielder with one of the finest, most-gifted talents to ever grace the game so soon in his career could see the gargantuan pressure inhibit his youthful exuberance that has been the most striking feature of his early days in Madrid.
It was clear, as he lined up alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria in a trio behind Karim Benzema against Elche on Wednesday night, that the newly-promoted outfit had noticed the hype. After 23 minutes, Carlos Sanchez Moreno, the Ecuadorian midfield reinforcer who goes by the name of “The Rock”, lunged into a crunching tackle on Isco that forced Ancelotti into a raging outburst on the touch-line.
After that, intently stalked by the prowling Moreno, Isco failed to make an impact on the game and after his midfield became repeatedly overrun, Ancelotti withdrew his man on the 70th minute mark. Asier Illaramendi, the other prestigious Spanish under-21 talent to arrive in Madrid for over £30 million in the sumer, came on to provide defensive protection.
That will be a problem that Ancelotti will have to solve before he can rely on his diminutive Spaniard producing his excellent best on a regular basis. It is no coincidence all of Isco’s La Liga goals and splendid displays so far this campaign have come at home, in the friendly, familiar surroundings of the Bernabeu, where teams come and afford Madrid the majority of the ball.
In the away matches, a narrow 0-1 win at Grenada, a fortunate 2-2 draw with Villarreal and the controversial 1-2 win at Elche, Madrid have found their midfield vulnerable to counter-attack, possibly missing the calming influence of Xabi Alonso who remains sidelined with a metatarsal injury.
While the 21 year old provides the creative attacking flair, the Italian coach will have to solidify his midfield should his quality be marginalised by another Carlos Moreno. And rest assured, as long as Isco’s stock continues to rise and the plaudits for his sublime talents continue to flow, there will be many more of them ready to target him.
It does seem however, that Isco has already cemented his place as Ancelotti’s first choice central-attacking midfielder, vindicating not only his decision to outlay such a massive amount on the 21 year old, but to also sell Mesut Ozil, the previous incumbent of that position, to Arsenal.
The hierarchy of Madrid held in no doubt the talent of Isco, seeing no problem in paying Malaga such a massive fee for a 21 year old who held only one year of Champions League experience, as well as using the personal touch of Zidane, who called the midfielder in the summer to convince him Madrid was the correct destination, to fend off the interest of Manchester City and former boss Pellegrini.
However the impact he has made so far would have surpassed many expectations as well as reiterating the need to manage such a precocious talent with the most delicate of guidance.
Madrid may well have another Zidane on their hands, but at the moment, it is important they just allow him to be Isco.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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