Isco: Everything You Need to Know About Malaga's Midfield Magician

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013

MALAGA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 18:  Francisco Alarcon 'Isco' of Malaga CF celebrates after scoring Malaga's opening goal during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Malaga CF and FC Zenit St Petersburg at the Rosaleda stadium on September 18, 2012 in Malaga, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Before we start, let me introduce you to some poetry. This was Isco earlier this season displaying his wonderful technique against the club who gave him his footballing education.

It is now nearly seven years since Valencia signed a 14-year-old kid, who at the end of last year was named UEFA's Golden Boy—full name Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez.

He worked his way through the youth teams at Los Che until he became a regular feature in the B team in 2009-10. The following season his debut came in the Copa del Rey, yielding two goals in a 4-1 win over UD Logrones.

Despite only making another six appearances for the first team he was widely expected to be Valencia's next big star, what wasn't expected was for him to go the way of David Silva, David Villa and Juan Mata so quickly.

It was a combination of two things which took Isco, 20, to Manuel Pellegrini's Malaga once they had activated his €6 million buy-out clause.

Firstly, Malaga is where the attacking midfielder hails from. Valencia may have given him his chance in professional football, but to return to the club around where his childhood was spent was a great draw—as it is with many footballers.

Secondly, Los Boquerones had, in 2011, become the third-biggest spenders in La Liga behind the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Sheikh al-Thani and his money had recently arrived full of promises, while up the coast Valencia had become a selling club struggling to finish the construction of a new stadium.

Isco's first season was one of promise. He worked largely in the shadows of Santi Cazorla, but as Malaga's Champions League challenge strengthened towards the end of the campaign the signs became more apparent than ever of the potential that he possessed.

By the end of the season, in Spain at least, everyone knew about Isco and what he could achieve.

He's been a regular in Spain's under-21 side, was called up—but didn't feature—to the full squad in May for two friendlies and was a regular in the Spain under-23 team which flopped at the London Olympics.

This season has been far from straightforward for Malaga. Despite their success on the pitch they continue to fight financial problems and UEFA punishments, although on the back of this, Isco's progress has accelerated.

Cazorla's transfer to Arsenal has led to more emphasis being placed on Malaga's No.22. At 5'9" he dazzles with play that reminds of those who preceded him at Valencia—Silva and Mata.

Take this first touch and finish against Real Madrid as an example.

He's scored six goals this season—already more than last—and it is no surprise that England's top clubs are constantly linked with his signature as they seek the next gem from the financial crisis troubling most La Liga clubs.

In April he'll turn 21, and if he can carry his form forward and fulfil his undoubted potential we could be hearing about Isco for the next 10 years.