[OP-ED]: All Spain has fallen in love with midfielder Isco
Nobody doubts the skill level of Francisco Alarcón “Isco” since he was selected in 2012 as the Golden Boy: Europe’s top Under 21 soccer player. Despite being born in Benalmádena in Málaga, the finesse midfielder was developed in Valencia’s farm system, but the club let him go back to his native province not wanting to renew his contract in 2011.
Two years in Málaga were enough for Isco to become one of the most promising rising athletes in Spanish soccer. After his second season, he led Spain’s Under-21 squad to win the European championship held in Israel. All of the continent’s powerhouses started biding for him and on June the 27th of 2013 Real Madrid announced an agreement with Isco.
Despite arriving to the white club as a promising star, the path to success has not been easy for the player born in Málaga as Real gives priority to foreign expensive attackers signed by President Florentino Pérez, so Isco was relegated to the bench. There was no place for him on an offense formed by Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. He assumed the galvanizer role, becoming the player who takes the field to fix things when they are not going the right way. In the 2014 Champions League final game held in Lisbon, the midfielder entered the contest in the second half with Real losing to Atlético Madrid, 1-0. The whites forced overtime thanks to a last-minute header by Sergio Ramos and then won 4-1 when the two extra periods finished. Two years later in Milan, the same thing happened. Isco came again from the bench in the second half. The score was tied at 1 then, and Real claimed the championship over Atlético in penalty kicks.
After three seasons without being the starter many though Isco’s future was away from the capital of Spain. Anyway, a long injury sustained by Bale opened a spot for him in the team’s offense. Wisely French coach Zinedine Zidane changed his playing system from a classical 4-3-3- to a 4-4-2 and Isco joined Casemiro, Luca Modric and Toni Cross in the middle of the field. In the Spanish league, in which Real is three victories away from winning the title for the first time in five years, the player from Málaga has set a personal record by scoring 10 goals. In the Champions League, in which the white club could become the first team to repeat as champion under the new format, Isco scored the decisive goal in a second-leg game that allowed Real to qualify this week to the final contest, again eliminating Atlético.
Isco’s sweet moment has also reached the Spanish National Team. After winning consecutively two European Cups and one World Cup, Spain failed in the last two international tournaments not being able to reach the elite eight in Brazil 2014 and France 2016. Now, the Spanish squad coached by Julen Lopetegui is breezing through the qualifying round, thanks to Isco’s leadership role. Spain is a few wins away from securing a berth in Russia’s 2018 World Cup.
Public opinion is usually right. Real Madrid fans were mad about the possibility of Isco leaving to another club. Zidane listened to them and found a way of including the Malaga magician in his line-up. The whites are thrilled, dreaming of their midfielder taking them to Europe’s summit and the whole Spain is eager about the 2018 World Cup, where Isco can be acknowledged as one of the top soccer players in the world.