Spain’s 6-1 thumping of Argentina on Tuesday night was somewhat of an eye-opener, with La Roja producing a display which combined class, concise attacking play with clinical finishing.
It was Isco who grabbed the headlines, netting a hat-trick for Julen Lopetegui’s side. Six months previously, he netted twice in a 3-0 qualification win over Italy while it was his strike which earned a draw at Wembley against England in November 2016.
The 25-year-old has grown into his role with the national side and is now a guaranteed starter following a string of mercurial displays.
He combines excellently with teammates and the growing perception is that even those at other clubs – David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets – play better when alongside the Malagueno. A superb team player, his symmetry with teammates is too much for many opposition defenders to handle.
Out of favour
After the game, Isco hailed Spain boss Julen Lopetegui for ‘displaying confidence’ in him and reiterated how important the national team now was to his career, citing a lack of ‘continuity’ at Real Madrid.
At club level, the three central midfield position are nailed down by Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric while Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Marcos Asensio are often preferred as the options to support Cristiano Ronaldo.
Many fans of both Madrid and Spain have long-felt Isco’s role is underrated in their sides due to his relative lack of star status. Los Blancos paid €30 million for his services in 2013, following strong interest in the then-Malaga star from Manchester City.
Reports in the Spanish press in recent weeks have even hinted he may be allowed to leave the Bernabeu this summer, despite signing a long-term contract extension back in September.
While his club future remains unclear, his path to stardom does not and the World Cup will afford him a month-long platform to show his clear talent.
Isco controls the ball and caresses it; an incisive passer, dribbler and forever finding space between the lines. He can drop back into a deeper midfield role and also play wider, drifting into the middle. Against Argentina, he was constantly shifting positions with Iniesta and Asensio – it was virtually impossible for the opposition to keep track.
His confidence at club level appears to have been knocked yet it was under Lopetegui at Spain’s Under-21 side where he made his name and the boss knows, and trusts, him more than any other – even Zinedine Zidane.
Spain have an embarrassment of riches in the midfield depart and dominated the department on Wednesday despite the absence of both David Silva and Sergio Busquets, but nobody has any doubts that should he stay fit, Isco will be the first name on the team-sheet come June.
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