Florentino Perez can sometimes be a bit of a grumpy-faced sourpuss. But last Wednesday, the Real Madrid president was as cheerful as can be. At times, there was almost a smile on his face.
Perez was presenting the signing of a young Spanish footballer to the sounds of rowdy supporters chanting the name of the new arrival. It was no wonder that the nattily dressed Isco was being hailed by enthused and excited fans who had gathered for the official unveiling. Not only was Isco another string to Real Madrid's attacking bow, but also the potential savior of Spain’s World Cup chances in 2014.
One of the criticisms of Spain during the Confederations Cup defeat against Brazil was that the team lacked flair and finishing prowess in the final third of the pitch. Vicente Del Bosque certainly has world-class footballers of the calibre of Juan Mata, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas for Spain’s front three positions. And although Pedro has been keeping up his end of the goalscoring bargain, everyone else lacks that killer instinct. This is an issue when the No. 9 of the day is not producing either.
Isco’s impressive performances both for Malaga in the Champions League last season and in the recent European U-21 Championships for his country have caught the eye of Del Bosque, who told Radio Nacional de Espana that Isco is “the future of the national team.” The former Valencia man certainly has everything needed to fulfill the Spain coach’s prediction—class, temperament, skill and panache. What is needed to ensure a smooth transition to next year’s World Cup squad is the right club.
If all goes to plan, there is no reason why Isco will not be in Brazil. Regular appearances for Real Madrid, a team gunning for La Liga and Champions League titles, are the perfect preparations for the level and quality of the football that Isco will be needing to produce next summer. Training and playing alongside footballers with the quality of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil can only accelerate a footballer’s development, too.
Of course, it all depends on how much Isco is going to feature for his new club, which has one or two decent players in its ranks. 20 minutes here and there and starting spots in easy-peasy league clashes against the likes of Elche will be of no benefit to Isco at all. It was regular football with Malaga that made the new Real Madrid signing the player he is today. This was especially the case over the past season, when Isco became the creative hub of the team after the departure of Santi Cazorla to Arsenal. Becoming a bench-warmer for Madrid could see Isco’s World Cup chances withering.
Another factor to take into account is that Isco is competing against footballers in his position who also play for big clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City and Barcelona. Figures like Juan Mata and David Silva have formed part of Del Bosque’s squads for some time now, and the manager is known for being loyal to those who have served him well in the past, even if current form is not fantastic.
Isco could have an outstanding year with Madrid, but still be stuck behind some more experienced pros in the playmaking pecking order who have had the ear and eye of the Spanish coach for longer.
Because of these factors and the unknown element concerning how much of a role Isco is going to play for Real Madrid, the chances of the 21-year-old being in Brazil in 2014 with Spain are 50-50. His country certainly needs him. It all depends on whether Isco will be in any position to answer the call.