Perhaps more ominous than the news Carlo Ancelotti, a manager with 2 Champions League titles and 3 domestic league titles spanning 3 separate countries, being appointed as the new manager of Real Madrid, comes the announcement that his first signing will be the £23 million capture of midfielder Isco.
The 21 year old was being chased by Manchester City but the lure of Madrid edged out the English club in the race for one of the most highly rated youngsters in Europe.
Isco, able to play centrally or on the left side of attacking midfield, will be added to the galaxy of stars already available to Ancelotti in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Angelo Di Maria and Karim Benzema. The Italian coach, in charge of AC Milan during the years of Kaka’s unstoppable genius in the mid-00s, will also find himself tasked with rediscovering the best form of the discarded Brazilian.
It is a fine squad at the Italian’s disposal at the Bernabeu, undermined by the disruption that ebbed and flowed from the abrasive reign of Jose Mourinho, and Isco’s vision, skill and array of passing will only compliment the vast array of talent once the reputedly pastoral Ancelotti restores harmony within the squad.
Manchester City’s admiration of Isco was driven by a season in which he clocked 36 appearances for Malaga, scoring twelve goals, before heading to the European Under-21 Championships in Israel where he contributed to Spain’s success with 3 goals and assisting 3 more.
Furthermore, the appointment of Isco’s “footballing father” Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad intensified speculation that he would follow the Chilean coach to Manchester, yet it was the pull of Madrid and Zinedine Zidane’s personal influence on the deal, according to some, that proved too much for the young Spaniard who documents Zizou as a massive influence on his style.
It is testament to Isco’s time under Pellegrini at Malaga that the Costa Del Sol club are to retire their number 22 shirt in honour of the player who joined from Valencia for €6 million in 2011 and went on to make 69 appearances in just two seasons under Pellegrini. Originally starting as a reserve among the influx of Abdullah Al Thani-funded talent, he emerged to finish the season alongside Santi Cazorla in midfield.
Once Cazorla left for Arsenal, Isco stepped up to seamlessly fill the void, leading Malaga to sixth despite the off-field uncertainty that has seen them expelled from the Europa League. Isco was also instrumental as Pellegrini’s men reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in their debut season, losing to eventual finalists Borussia Dortmund via a last minute winner.
Following the trouble with Al Thani’s finances, Pellegrini was left to forge a squad with players who had seen their careers stutter in Joaquin, Julio Baptista and Roque Santa Cruz. It was an amalgam of forgotten talent, all woven together by Isco’s technical deftness and gifted vision. With Malaga’s cash-flow irregularities and European completion suspension, there was no other choice but for Pellegrini to leave and Isco to follow him through the door.
The Spaniard will compete with Mesut Ozil for the attacking midfield spot in Ancleotti’s side next season and is likely to move the German out to the flanks with Luka Modric also entering the equation. It will no doubt add variety to a side that often looked laboured in attack last season and were over-reliant on the relentless brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo.
This is not only Ancelotti’s first signing, but Florentino Perez’s primary deal in his hunt for re-election as club president over the summer. The man behind the reckless spending of the Galactico era, this resembles more measured spending from Perez, investing in the future as much as proven ability.
Madrid are likely to get the best part of the next decade out of the player who won the La Liga breakthrough and UEFA Golden Boy individual awards over the past year, firing a warning shot that Ancelotti and Perez are intent on not only winning the La Liga title back from Barcelona, but also launching a quest for sustained dominance of their own.
There are no better players to spearhead that vision than Isco, the latest on the line of beautifully crafted Spanish technicians.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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