The money that Real Madrid are investing in grass roots football in Spain is truly admirable. There should be medals awarded, it is all so humbling and moving. €30 million was handed over to Real Sociedad (and seven for the tax man) for Asier Illarramendi, a footballer with just a couple of half decent seasons under his belt. Malaga also pocketed €30 million for Isco in what feels like a whim as Real Madrid do not really need the playmaker.
The fact that there is still a debate over what Isco will do and where at the Santiago Bernabeu club indicates that the transfer may not have been the most logical by Florentino Perez. But hey ho, Isco is not going anywhere now and coaches have lost their posts at Madrid for not fielding the president’s favourite.
Ideally, Isco should be slotted in behind the striker as a poking, probing playmaker. That is where the footballer can really show his fanciest football as done for Valencia, Malaga and the Spanish international youth ranks. However, Mesut Ozil plays in that role very effectively. In fact, there are few finer players in the world in this position. Kaka also favors that role, a footballer over twice as expensive as Isco but still rattling around the club’s dressing room.
Carlo Ancelotti has already tested the 21-year-old “in-the-hole” behind the striker in preseason friendlies and Isco looked fine and dandy there. One would hope so, too. The problem is that this tactic forced the imperious Ozil out to the right hand side, where the German is as effective on the pitch as a TV stand. Ozil’s appearance on that flank in turn stuck Angel di Maria on the bench and made the team lose a little bit of dynamism and shooting power from distance that the Argentinean winger can offer.
Isco has also been known to hang around on the left in a front three formation in previous incarnations. Fortunately, that 4-3-3 setup is one that Real Madrid favored under Mourinho. It still lingered in parts during the three friendlies so far under the club’s new Italian manager. The issue with shifting Isco over to this flank is that the spot is taken up by Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese footballer is quite a decent player on a good day and thus difficult to relegate to the bench, di Maria-style.
A placement in the creative centre of the park would leave Isco too far away from the action up front and would use up a spot pencilled in for Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric or the aforementioned Illarramendi.
Tactical necessity has not always been a priority for the Madrid president in his signings, so working out where and how Ancelotti will use Isco is possibly a misplaced use of time. The new acquisition already fits the bill on three fronts for Real Madrid in the club’s attempt to give the Santiago Bernabeu a more local feel. Isco is marketable, Spanish and set to be a leading international for years to come. For the moment, that is more than enough for Real Madrid, no matter where Isco ends up on the pitch.