Could Isco Fit In at Real Madrid with Ronaldo and Company?
Isco, the brightest of all the bright young things currently with Spain's under-21 team at the European Championships in Israel, is a man very much in demand.
After a wonderful season with Malaga—who secured a sixth place finish in La Liga and reached the quarter-final of the Champions League—the delightful attacking midfielder, full of artful dodges and incisive passes, appears set for a mega-money move.
The latest, according to Mark Ogden in the Telegraph, has English league runners-up Manchester City, now led by the 21-year-old's former mentor at La Rosaleda, Manuel Pellegrini, in pole position for his signature ahead of Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Nonetheless, the diminutive schemer has insisted nothing is yet "definitive" and he could well still end up at either the Etihad Stadium or the Santiago Bernabeu come the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign.
But should he choose to remain in La Liga with Los Blancos, then just how would the fleet-footed youngster, whose shuffling style and dribbling dexterity is somewhat reminiscent of senior Spanish star Andres Iniesta, fit in alongside Messrs. Ronaldo, Benzema, Casillas and company?
In my opinion, Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez, to use his full moniker, will continue to fulfill his potential should he opt for a move to Madrid over Manchester—eventually. But in the immediate future, he may well find it rather difficult to make his mark with the Madridistas.
Such is the wealth of talent in attacking areas at the club, the big conundrum for Isco to deal with would quite simply be game time, or lack thereof.
In Isco's preferred positions—be it as a No.10 or as an "interior" closer to the flanks, playing from out-to-in—his immediate pathway to the first XI appears blocked. If we assume that Real continue moving forwards with the 4-2-3-1 formation, which is en vogue across Europe and has been a staple of the sides identity in the past three years, there is already a genuine world-class talent already in place.
Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest players to ever grace the Bernabeu, predominantly occupies the left channel; Mesut Ozil, the German international, schemes from a central position; whilst the frighteningly quick Angel Di Maria hugs the right touchline before darting toward goal. They are the first-choice triumvirate, so decisive in terms of the goals and assists which they provide.
Additionally, former World Player of the Year Kaka—who could well link up once again with his former AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti this summer, if the Italian trades in PSG for Real Madrid—is in reserve. And that's without mentioning Luka Modric, who was often used in an advanced playmaker role during his debut season in Madrid.
Therefore, Isco's chances of being an immediate starter—he'll play matches, but when El Clasico, big European nights or the derby with Atletico comes around, the substitutes bench appears more likely—would appear to be somewhat remote.
Certainly football is a squad game these days, but a young player hailed as the brightest in Europe in 2012, and the winner of TuttoSport's Golden Boy award, surely wants to be making decisive actions week-in and week-out, rather than having a regular starting spot blocked.
Training with such world stars each day would be a good thing, no question, but for his continued progress, 90 minutes each week at a top level is far more important.
Would he be getting that at Real Madrid over the course of 2013-14, in what is, of course, a World Cup year? If he has a hope of claiming a spot in Vicente Del Bosque's 23-man squad for Brazil, he'll almost certainly need to be a first-choice with his club, such is the wealth of talent in La Roja's midfield—Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas, David Silva, Pedro Rodriguez, Juan Mata et al. After all, it is perhaps the greatest international side ever.
Over time, all that has been written above would certainly change. The saying "nothing ever lasts forever" springs to mind, and eventually the cycle of this particular Real Madrid side, led by Casillas, Ramos, Ronaldo and Alonso, will end. It could be in 12 months, it could be in three years—there are no guarantees of when, only that it will.
But Isco, despite only being 21, doesn't have time to waste. Such has been his ascension since his €6 million move from Valencia to Malaga in 2011, we are now talking about a player who is being hailed as worth €30 million.
His glorious talent has been in full focus these past 12 months as the star man in Malaga, and his inventiveness has shone playing for Spain's next generation. His star continues to rise, but if his ascendence is to continue unabated, then perhaps Real Madrid isn't the place for him just yet.
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