Cristiano Ronaldo snapped a few times. Even Gareth Bale, the mild-mannered, quietly spoken character that he is, has glared in their direction from time to time. On Wednesday night, it was Isco’s turn to hit back at the notoriously tough to please Santiago Bernabeu crowd. And he went further than anyone else has before.
The Real Madrid playmaker couldn’t take any more. Having been booed and whistled all game long, he turned to the stands and mouthed ‘What do you want?,’ throwing this arms in the air, chuckling in bafflement. Moments later, he refused to take the captain’s armband from Marcelo as the left back was substituted off, instead handing it to Dani Carvajal.
Increasingly, with every passing week, it appears that Isco’s future lies away from Real Madrid. For so long a vision of what the Spanish giants wanted to be in the future, technically brilliant, entertaining, homegrown, he has now become a scapegoat for their troubles.
Of course, Real Madrid’s dismal start to the season has been down to more than just one figure or one factor, but this hasn’t stopped fans demanding that Isco be sold as soon as possible. And so speculation swirls that he could make the move to the Premier League in January or at the end of the season, with Manchester City reported to be interested.
A move to City would probably appeal to Isco. As things stand, it would represent an upgrade of circumstances, with Pep Guardiola’s side one of the favourites for this season’s Champions League and Real Madrid only ever one bad result away from a crisis. What’s more, there is not a football player on the planet who would not wish to work with Guardiola, particularly a player of Isco’s mould.
It should be noted, though, that it’s not just the Real Madrid fans and new manager Santiago Solari who, for some reason, see the bad side of Isco. Julen Lopetegui wanted to build his team around the 26-year-old having done that at international level during his time as Spain manager, but before him Zinedine Zidane wasn’t always convinced by what he saw in Isco.
Maybe it’s the sometimes languid way Isco plays the game. The way he frequently stands with his hands on his hips, waiting for the ball to come to him. Ronaldo was known for snapping at the playmaker from time to time, because as the Portuguese forward viewed it Isco refused to put in the necessary effort.
But there’s another player in Spain who frequently looks languid, who stands, at times, with hands on his hips. His name is Lionel Messi. Of course, Isco isn’t Messi, but there are parallels in principle to be drawn between the two. Isco is a player who can pick the lock of an opposition defence. He offers something different in the final third and for that it’s best to keep him in the final third. Demanding he track back and dig deep defensively would blunt his edge in attack.
Guardiola demands discipline from his players, but he has also been known to grant certain figures a degree of freedom. Messi was his wildcard at Barcelona, given a free role to drift wherever he saw fit. Man City don’t really have anyone like that at present and so Isco would give them something they don’t currently have. It’s easy to see why a move might appeal.
For Real Madrid, though, Isco’s departure would represent a great failure. His signing was meant to kickstart a new era for the club. Instead, his presence at the Santiago Bernabeu now exposes the toxicity that now festers there. Real Madrid should have been the perfect place for Isco. Now, it’s seemingly the worst possible place for him.
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