Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane singled out Isco for praise after the 3-1 win over Valencia in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals, taking no credit for his recovery and expressing delight at his strong form.
The Spain international scored a goal in the routine win, which booked Los Blancos' spot in Sunday's final against Barcelona or Atletico Madrid. Per Goal's Joe Wright, Zidane explained how he and Luka Modric worked well together on Wednesday:
"I had no role in Isco's recovery, I'm just glad about it. He has personality and wants to play. He doesn't shy away from responsibility. ...
"Today, the option was to put Isco and Modric on the inside to have more runs from the full-backs.
"It was the option for today. We can play with wingers, but we did it the other way around, with more central players and using the wings with our full-backs. It worked for us.
"We prepare really well for games, we understand them very well. We're all together. In the end, it's the players that play, that give everything on the pitch."
Toni Kroos, Isco and Modric got the goals for Real, while Dani Parejo added a late consolation for Valencia in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia:
While the two other scorers for Real had excellent outings, it was Isco who stole the show. The former Malaga man was everywhere, completing more passes than ever before in a Real shirt:
SB Nation's Lucas Navarrete named him his man of the match:
The 27-year-old has taken on a much bigger role of late, starting in three of Real's past four outings in La Liga. He has made six league starts in total this season.
Isco has never lived up to the hype since joining from Malaga in 2013, spending much of his time in the capital as a fringe player. Inconsistency has been a major issue, and his playing time took a dive last season—he started just 11 La Liga matches.
During Zidane's first spell in charge of the club, Isco didn't hide his disappointment at his lack of minutes. In March 2018, he openly questioned how he could win his manager's confidence if he didn't play, per Marca.
Things only got worse under Santiago Solari:
It's a credit to the player that he has kept working to regain Zidane's confidence in his second stint at the club, and he has found form at the right time. Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio were all unavailable against Valencia because of injury, leaving Los Blancos short of options out wide and behind the striker.
Real are in the midst of a tight title race―they are tied with Barcelona on 40 points at the top of La Liga―and will face Manchester City in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League when the competition resumes in February.