A statement both on and off the pitch by Isco for Spain, has put the player at odds over his future with Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane is a man of few words. He was as a player and he is as a manager. Controversy is swiftly dodged by Real Madrid’s coach when questioned about spiky issues. That’s what he did once again on Friday after being asked about a fan-favourite, Isco Alarcón, and his performance in the international friendlies played earlier this week: “I’m very happy with Isco, he’s going to stay here in Madrid. I like the player”, he stated.
However, no blunt statement or high praise will shake off the feeling that the chemistry between the Frenchman and Isco isn’t the best. Since his arrival in December 2015, ‘Zizou’ and his football philosophy have clashed several times with the Malaga-born’s cheerful and technical football style, with many ups and downs in their, particularly complicated relationship.
The latest example took place after Spain’s tremendous beatdown to Argentina (6-1), where Isco scored a hat-trick and completed an excellent performance. “In the national squad I have the confidence that I lack in Real Madrid”, he said… just before adding that “maybe” this happens because “I haven’t been able to earn it”. While Isco’s spoken dribbling is not as proficient as his football one, his views were made clear: he isn’t happy with the way he’s being handled in Real Madrid’s strange and often random rotations.
In this sense, Zidane’s playing style largely diverges from the fantastic way he used to play years ago. That fantasy and technical magic he displayed on the pitch has mutated into a much more conservative plan, where he does place quality players in his line-up but the overall skeleton is very tight, possibly too tight due to the constraints and disadvantages of favouring the BBC instead of other players.
It is true that it has worked wonders in big KO games (just look at the two Champions Leagues won in the last two seasons), but at the same time it hasn’t allowed for the team to develop a ‘trademark’ of their own. Zidane’s Real wins (most) games, but few people could exactly pinpoint how they do it.
"I'm not unfair to Isco, he's important to me"
Zinedine Zidane has played down tension between him and his playmaker…
Yet the midfielder is clearly unhappy.
— MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) March 30, 2018
And, in that straight route towards ruthless efficiency instead of a recognizable football style, Isco has been one of the most wronged individuals. Meanwhile, inside Spain’s squad and surrounded with quality players who enjoy passing around the ball and finding the empty space to create the chance, the midfielder finds himself right at home.
Zidane’s statement (“he’s going to stay here at Madrid”) was also aimed at those teams who have known for months that the player isn’t comfortable with the status quo and are trying to lure him in: the latest rumours involve Manchester City (Isco has always been one of Pep Guardiola’s dream players) and a potential $105 million bid for him next summer.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Juventus, Inter… All of these transfer stories have made the headlines at some point over the last year, although the player’s huge buyout clause ($860 million) makes any potential move quite unlikely unless Real’s president Florentino Pérez is keen to collect a humungous sum for the midfielder.
Real Madrid are now facing the last two months of a very demanding season, with the upcoming Champions League quarter-final showdown against Juventus FC as another turning point for Zidane: moving on to the semifinals would be seen as a rousing success for the current 12-time champions, while getting knocked out will undoubtedly be regarded as the last straw in a disappointing season with no silverware whatsoever. The question remains: against Juventus, will Zidane trust Isco with the reins of its midfield?