This season, Isco Alarcón proved to Europe that he is one of the best footballers on the planet. He blossomed in big games, shined in Europe, and became a crucial starter to Madrid in their historically triumphant season. Still, it took a while before the Golden Boy became the Golden Man.
In 2013, the Spanish playmaker departed from Málaga, joining Real Madrid for a fee of €30 million, ending all speculations regarding an overseas move after a sublime season, earning the Golden Boy Award after playing a huge part in Málaga’s impressive Champions League run, getting to the quarterfinals. The Spanish playmaker instantly became a hit with a playing style paralleled by few, despite his lack of productivity at such a young age.
Just months ago, Isco was reportedly on his way out of Madrid. Too often left on the bench on big occasions, he had become synonymous with the B team; while in rare appearances in the first team he showed his class in brief moments, but it was a rarity. Isco suffered a speedbump in his development, due to his reluctance to step up to defensive duties, one of the big reasons his coaches Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez and now Zinedine Zidane opted to leave him out of the starting XI. It wasn’t until Gareth Bale suffered an ankle injury in November of 2016 that Isco got his real chance to prove his worth in this Madrid side, which he certainly did. With Zidane’s right sided forward out, Zidane switched formations from 433 to 442 diamond, which allowed Isco to play as a traditional No. 10, his favoured position. With limited defensive duties and Ronaldo customarily hitting form in the business end of the season, Isco found himself rejuvenated.
Isco’s role in the tactical change is to sit firmly behind Benzema and Ronaldo, with his lack of explosiveness and physical ability to be deployed in a similar role to Bale or Ronaldo, and the forward thinking a Toni Kroos or Luka Modric doesn’t possess, this new role is perfect for him. Operating in the attacking midfield position offers him a sizeable portion of licence to roam freely, allowing him to occupy different areas of the pitch depending on the circumstance. It also enables him to play a more important part of attack, and the progression of moves into advanced areas. Isco’s ball carrying ability, flair, mobility and awareness are well served by his new role and always gives him the platform to express ability to act as a connection from midfield to attack.
With Isco playing 35 games in 2016/17 scoring 11 and assisting 9 times, with one of the performances of the season vs. Gijón (A) creating 6 chances, completing 10 take-ons, scoring 2 goals including a 90th minute winner in which secured a 3-2 win, putting Madrid in the driving seat to win their first La Liga in 7 years, this performance is widely regarded as a top 5 performance this season, constantly displaying his ability to find pockets of space and excel into advanced areas and continuously showing his ability to resist pressure in tight spaces.
Another crucial goal involvement came on the final day of the season, creating the chance for Ronaldo to open the scoring against his former club to earn Madrid the title, after his staggering season earning Real Madrid’s fans’ player of the season, Spanish newspaper MARCA asked readers to vote as to who should start the Champions League Final vs Juventus (Bale or Isco), out of 33,000 voters, 72% voted Isco. If this doesn’t imply Isco’s vast improvement this season, I don’t know what will.
From having his own fans doubting him to being directly involved in a goal every 86 minutes in La Liga this season, playing 1636 minutes, bagging 10 goals, not to mention having the best conversion rate of all La Liga players scoring 10+ goals, also with 9 assists leading to him being awarded the fans player of the year award and earning a supposed 5 year contract. We can all agree Isco has established himself as a Madrid regular and one of Madrid’s most important players.
To ensure Isco develops into the player his talent suggests he can become, he may need to look into adapting into unfamiliar positions, with the traditional No. 10 role becoming a dying age in the modern generation, having been underwhelming as an inside forward, he should look into becoming an interior, with the right protection if he fully adapts and matures into an interior, sky’s the limit for Isco. Perhaps could be a smart alternative to replacing aging Luka Modrić in near future. Due to speculation earlier in the season of Isco looking for a club elsewhere, and Barca being one of many clubs interested, people seem to see him as the heir to Barcelona’s Andrés Iniesta, however with his staggering 2016/17 season, i don’t see Zidane allowing that to happen any time soon.