If Málaga allow Manuel Pellegrini to leave for the vacant Manchester City job, per Sky Sports, then 21-year-old attacking midfielder Isco becomes a prime target for the Sky Blues, according to Danny Griffiths at The Metro.
Prior to joining Málaga in 2011, Isco never received an extended run with the Valencia first team.
Juan Mata led the team in league assists (12) and is now Chelsea's Spanish Gianfranco Zola.
Rather than have their answer to Andrea Pirlo, Valencia management were punting on Éver Banega as a playmaker, a role he's had varied success in.
Joaquín, a seasoned pro with over 50 appearances for La Furia Roja, later became Isco's teammate at Málaga.
Pablo Hernández, a serviceable role player for Los Che, has found solace with Swansea City.
I always say this, but I'll say it again. Unai Emery preferred to play Chori Domínguez instead of giving Isco a chance. No words.— Eóin - Valencia News (@XimoVCF) September 18, 2012
Alejandro Domínguez never lived up to expectations after dominating in Russia, and he constantly went missing under Unai Emery.
Emery claimed Isco's fluctuating weight (something Cazorla struggled with early in his career) was the reason why the youngster never made it at Valencia, per AS.com:
AS.com: Have you heard about Unai Emery's comments about you in his book 'Winning mentality'? He said you had a tendency to put on weight.
Isco: Emery can say what he wants. I think he made a big mistake with me, not just in not giving me confidence, but also in the way he treated me. Perhaps he didn't give me confidence because I didn't win over his confidence.
Despite the setback, Isco knew his self-worth with the FIFA Technical Study Group highlighting him as an outstanding player during the 2009 U-17 FIFA World Cup and 2011 U-20 World Cup.
My question to the Spanish Football FederationWhere is the justice and equality between the clubs ???????? We wronged by the UEFA— Abdullah N Al Thani (@ANAALThani) April 25, 2013
Málaga management, bankrolled by Sheikh Al Thani, accurately projected Isco's upside and signed him for €6 million.
Two years later, Al Thani, frustrated by the lack of equality in La Liga, stopped funding Málaga, leaving the club in the red and incurring a one-year ban from European competitions.
The first few games of Isco's Málaga career must have been surreal knowing he was playing alongside a masterful technician in Santi Cazorla, one of the best players in the world.
Cazorla's ability to play across the field enabled Isco to adjust quicker than expected.
With Cazorla moving to Arsenal last summer, Isco was handed the reigns, and he's had more freedom to operate in his second season for the Andalusian club.
He does have vision, but his mentality is the same as Shinji Kagawa—the need to validate one's worth with goals.
In La Liga, Isco has seven more goals (8) than assists (1).
This season, he hasn't been clinical enough.
A 7.9 shots per league goal is not even in the ballpark of Real Valladolid's crafty 30-year-old, Óscar, whose SPLG is 3.9.
Though, Isco has repeatedly shown exceptional positional awareness, especially against struggling defenders like Pepe, who was outwitted by the Spaniard's smartness.
When the Málaga midfielder is on song, he takes over games as evidenced with braces vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg and Levante.
It's not just the goals, he can conjure up moments of sheer brilliance, and he was No. 1 in dribbles per game (4.8) during the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
He has the passing range and the aptitude to seamlessly switch to a midfield conductor, which is what Andrés Iniesta does for Barcelona.
Isco's Current Transfer Situation
If Málaga wanted to keep Isco, they would have inserted a €90 million buyout clause, which is what Barcelona did with Thiago Alcântara.
Isco's €35 million buyout clause, via his recent contract extension, is pleading for a prospective buyer to trigger it this summer.
I just came on Twitter to see Mancini, Pellegrini and Isco all trending. Please, for the love of God, don't let this be what I think it is.— Tom (@FourFourTom) May 10, 2013
When Pellegrini became the Málaga manager, after being unceremoniously ousted at Real Madrid, he requested his former Villarreal player Cazorla, the current Arsenal star, who is finally receiving the world-wide recognition he should have always had.
So, it's probable that should Pellegrini get hired as the new City manager, he'll ask for Isco.
Are there cheaper alternatives to the Spaniard? Yep.
Bastia's Wahbi Khazri, 22, is one of the most exciting Ligue 1 players right now.
23-year-old Japanese international Hiroshi Kiyotake, of Nuremberg, doesn't just have vast marketing value, but he has more league assists with inferior players (10) than David Silva (8), who plays alongside some of the most expensive strikers in the world.
Would Isco be the ideal transfer target? No.
Atlético Madrid's 21-year-old midfielder Koke is a more complete footballer, averaging more tackles per game (2.3) than Isco (1.4) and threads more penetrating passes, hence why the Atléti midfielder has seven more assists.
Koke can be a holding midfielder; he's played out wide, and he has world-class promise as a No. 10.
If Mancini was still the manager, then buying Isco is unnecessary as the chances of him being lost in the shuffle is high.
However, if Pellegrini is the manager, you have to project that he'll put Isco, who has FIFA Ballon d'Or potential, in the best situation to succeed.