In the build-up to the 2017 Champions League final Isco was the darling of the Bernabéu after scoring a decisive away goal in the semi-final defeat of Atlético Madrid.
Fast-forward to today, via a trophy-laden 2017/18 season which produced another Champions League crown for the Spaniard and Real Madrid, and those days are long gone.
The 26-year-old is the focus of the notoriously harsh glare of the Real fanbase, who seem to have singled him out for special attention during what has been a testing campaign for the 13-time champions of Europe.
Tensions came to a head during Madrid’s 3-0 Champions League defeat to CSKA Moscow last week when Isco reacted angrily to be being booed by his own fans.
Isco attracting attention
A starting spot which seemed so secure under both Zinedine Zidane, a coach who valued Isco’s talents above those of Gareth Bale’s during his tenure, and the ill-fated reign of Julen Lopetegui is no longer certain.
Santiago Solari has given Isco just 292 minutes of action during the ten games he has overseen since he took over in October.
Chelsea look to have stolen a march in the race to sign the former Málaga man, with a fee of £70 million and wages of £250,000-per-week reportedly enough to secure a four-and-a-half year deal.
While Blues boss Maurizio Sarri is said to want to pair Isco with Eden Hazard, Real’s own flirtations towards the Chelsea No.10 could see Isco arrive as a potential replacement should the Belgian depart in the summer.
The likelihood of an easier route to the first-team at Stamford Bridge will also play a part in swaying the decision of a player who clearly wants to feature more regularly.
Time in and out of the squad this term has seen Isco’s stats suffer – he has provided 0.17 goals and 0.34 assists per 90 minutes from 516 minutes of La Liga action – but he would still bring a considerable attacking presence to the Premier League.
The 2017/18 campaign may provide a truer reading of Isco’s talents as he played 31 league games under Zidane and finished with seven goals and seven assists in the league (0.35 per 90 each).
Ball retention is, of course, a must to prosper in Sarri’s possession conscious world, so Chelsea fans will be pleased to see he has keeps good care of the ball with an 88.1 per cent pass completion rate.
Similarly, Isco’s grounding in the Spanish passing game would make him a good fit at Manchester City where Pep Guardiola’s affection for keeping the ball is limitless.
Given Madrid’s lethargy in La Liga over the past two years, they currently sit fourth and finished third in 2017/18, it would be remiss not to look at Isco’s form in the Champions League – the competition where Real have been imperious in recent times.
Isco has played four times this term, creating 0.71 big chances per 90 minutes and scoring one goal, with an astonishingly high shooting accuracy of 62.5 per cent.
He may not have scored on the run to Champions League glory last season, but he kept contributing, producing 1.71 key passes in open play per game.
There is little to suggest Isco, a holder of 34 Spanish caps, would not be suited to the any of the three Premier League sides said to be chasing his signature.
And with the playmaker’s Real love affair on the rocks, a new relationship could be just what he needs in 2019.