This is set to be the biggest week in the career of Real Madrid’s 24-year-old Spanish attacker, Isco.
With a confirmed injury to Gareth Bale, there is a clear space for the former Malaga star to take his place in the UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich and Sunday’s massive El Clasico battle at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Following his double against Sporting Gijon at the weekend, Isco now has nine goals in La Liga and five assists. He has started 15 out of 28 games and has started to show Zinedine Zidane just how vital he can be to this club.
Yet, in the Champions League, he has played just 77 minutes this season. Leading to the forward being questioned this weekend, surely this is his chance to sparkle on the European stage?
“I don't know, the boss decides,” Isco said. “The truth is I have not played much in the Champions League but I will take that as the team is close to the semifinals. The important thing is to go through, not who plays.”
Isco Future Uncertain at Real Madrid
His future is still up in the air. A transfer target for Chelsea, the Spanish international had also been linked with a summer move to Manchester City, with the London club willing to offer him a reported deal worth £160,000-a-week to entice him to Stamford Bridge.
Contracted until 2018, there have been hints that he could swap Spain for England, but even Barcelona are known to be interested in acquiring his services this summer as he is on the search for more first-team minutes.
He admitted that his intention was to remain at the Bernabeu “for many years” while not confirming that he would sign a new contract with the Spanish giants.
“I've said it many times,” Isco said this weekend. “I want to stay a long time, many years, and I hope I do. I have always been clear on this. I don't know why people get surprised when I want to play more.”
Isco has no intention leaving "the best team in the world" pic.twitter.com/KU3dJQr0Sh
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 16, 2017
“If I believed I did not deserve to, I would not say that I did. I am at the biggest club in the world, there is nobody bigger than Madrid and I feel lucky to be here.
“Sometimes the media misinterpret what you say, to sell papers. I have always said I want to stay at Madrid, and I will make the correct decision. I will do everything possible to stay.”
New Signings The Threat
While the player’s desire seems to be to stay in the Spanish capital, much of it will also depend on who arrives at Real this summer and if there is still space and hope for the 24-year-old to earn more minutes.
Linked with moves for Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Premier League sensation Dele All, it’s hard to see the Benalmádena-born playmaker sticking around to sit on the bench.
Isco is doing his part this season, and it was the little Spaniard who stepped up and saved his team this weekend, helping Los Blancos beat Sporting Gijon 3-2 and maintaining their three-point lead of Barcelona at the top of the table.
Sensational Isco Saved Real
After going a goal down in the 14th minute, it took the 24-year-old just 180 seconds to level the score.
The ball was worked from left to right and eventually Isco, taking up that critical position in between defence and midfield, picked up possession on the edge of the box.
In the flash of an eye, he’d beaten two defenders, flicked the ball onto his left, turned inside past another defender before smashing a shot into the top corner.
It was the level of finish that would have had the whole of Europe screaming if it had been pulled off by Lionel Messi, or his team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.
ISCOOOOOOOOOOOOO ? https://t.co/hjiMsQ00Mr
— Youbaa (@AioubIsco) April 16, 2017
The home side would again take the lead, but Alvaro Morata headed home the equaliser on the hour mark, leaving the stage set for Isco to steal the show.
Picking the ball up in a similar zone to his first, this time he would quickly spin, face the goal, and smash a low shot with his right-foot into the bottom corner.
Isco finished the game with two shots, both on target, both finding the back of the net. He touched the ball 119 times, 25 times more than the next player, James Rodriguez.
The Spaniard made two key passes and completed ten dribbles. He made 89 passes and they found their target 94.4 per cent of the time, an astounding return and the perfect build up to perhaps the biggest week the club has faced in years.
Most Important Week for Real
On Tuesday Madrid take on Bayern Munich, 2-1 up from the first-leg, but they will know they have to be at their best. Bale has been ruled out and it would be a travesty if Isco wasn’t given the nod after that stunning performance at the weekend.
Win or lose, they then host Barcelona on Sunday. Although three points ahead, the Catalan side have a game in-hand, so any slip up will give Luis Enrique’s team the advantage going into the final few weeks.
In comparison to his team-mates, Isco has put up some excellent numbers this season. He attempts and completes more dribbles than both Bale and James, he does lose the ball more, but he averages more passes per game too.
Isco Derserves to Start
James makes more key passes and averages more assists per 90 minutes, but Isco is still ahead of Bale in that regard.
Reports suggested that Florentino Perez has been disappointed by the performances of Bale this season, and compared to Isco, a player that is overlooked time and time again, it’s easy to see why.
Real Madrid have an absolute gem of a player on their hands, but it has been a similar story over the years. An embarrassment of riches sees players that don’t have the same worldwide appeal cast to the side, despite pure ability.
If the former Malaga player can inspire Real Madrid to the semi-finals of the Champions League and into a six-point lead over Barcelona, it will be hard to ignore the little Spaniard.
But if Zidane still fails to take notice, all the better for Chelsea and Manchester City. If he decides to leave Madrid this summer, someone is about to land themselves an absolute gem of a player.
Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.