Santiago Solari: Isco Absence for Roma vs. Real Madrid Was a 'Sporting Decision'

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2018

ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 26: Raphael Varane of Real Madrid, Gareth Bale of Real Madrid, Isco of Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid during the   Real Madrid Training and Press Conference on November 26, 2018 in Rome Italy (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari said he made a "sporting decision" to leave Isco out of the matchday squad for Tuesday's trip to Roma in the UEFA Champions League. 

Los Blancos beat the Giallorossi 2-0 in the Italian capital, but the Spaniard did not even make the bench despite being fit to play.

Per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan, Solari said: "These are calls that you make in a certain moment. We are here to do that, nothing else. It was a sporting decision, nothing else. There are no starters, or substitutes, in football. It is up to all players to be at 100 per cent, so the coaches pick them."

Isco, who played just 27 minutes in their 3-0 defeat to Eibar last Saturday, was part of the 20-man squad that travelled to Rome.

Corrigan shared comments Solari made about the playmaker on Monday:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Solari asked about Isco yesterday: “He is working well, like his teammates. He is a very important player for us. I count on him, the same as I count on the other 23.”

The Argentinian's use of Isco somewhat contradicts his statement, however.

As Tom Allnutt of Agence France-Presse noted, Solari has barely included him in his plans since he replaced Julen Lopetegui as manager in October:

Tom Allnutt @TomAllnuttAFP

And tonight Isco not even on the bench. All not well. https://t.co/6Di4A9yUG0

Real managed without him on Tuesday as second-half goals from Gareth Bale and Lucas Vazquez sealed the win. Roma should have been ahead at the break, though, having squandered several chances with Cengiz Under guilty of failing to hit the target from inside the six-yard box.

Los Blancos created most of their opportunities after the break, though they weren't up against the kind of deep-lying defence Isco specialises in unlocking.

The 26-year-old is intelligent and technically gifted, one who can receive the ball in tight spaces and beat someone before carving open a back line with a pass.

Football writer Andrew Gaffney believes he struggles to maintain top form for long periods, though:

Andrew Gaffney @GaffneyVLC

@bghayward @AlexTruica Yeah, not entirely sure what happened. It’s like riding a scooter. Isco powers ahead of the rest then eases off and let’s everyone overtake him. Rinse, repeat. Wait a second! He’s.. https://t.co/L8hhXEMO67

It's still early days in Solari's reign, but the early indications are that he doesn't have much faith in the player.

Despite his limitations, Isco is an exceptional talent when at his best, and there will be no shortage of takers if he moves on from the Santiago Bernabeu.

If he continues to struggle for game time in the coming months, he may well consider his options.