Isco: A Sleeper Awakens

By | March 15, 2015

In early 2015, Real Madrid has struggled, between a stream of injuries, an underperforming Gareth Bale, and inconsistent, poor play. However one player has stepped up, Isco, number 23 is a player that most would not consider a superstar, but one who has been crucial in helping a struggling Madrid stay afloat, making up for an injured James Rodriguez and Luka Modric. In his time filling in as a starter on Madrid Isco has played a beautiful game, creating wonderful opportunities for his teammates, making perfect passes, and defeating difficult challenges.

Although he is not a complete no-name player, Isco still tends to be a bit of a sleeper and has always seemed to be just barely out of the spotlight, passed up for awards and overshadowed by several of his peers such as James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Additionally he was cut from the 2014 Spanish national football team, and was bypassed for beIN’s “25 Under 25” best soccer players list. However his stats speak for themselves, despite only playing 19 matches this season, Isco has the 5th most assists this season behind only Messi, Ronaldo, Cheryshev, and Suarez. Iker Casillas, Real Madrid’s captain, and renowned Spanish goalkeeper once commented that “Isco is the most important Spanish player of the future.” Its true that Real Madrid has many great players that could start over Isco, however he has proved this season that he is an incredible player, and that with more development (and more playing time) he could prove to be more than just an important Spanish player in the future, he could be an incredibly important Real Madrid player in the future.

7 thoughts on “Isco: A Sleeper Awakens

  1. Helena Wang

    I definitely agree with the second part of your comment, Lukas. I think Real Madrid is especially known as a club that wants the next “new, shiny toy” as demonstrated by the players they purchased after the 2010 and 2014 World Cup. It is especially tough for Isco because it seems like all of the new players being purchased are midfielders as well, causing more competition among the elite players for playing time. It is definitely possible for Isco to develop in such a competitive environment, but with young, talented players rising up the ranks, it will be hard for Isco to find as much playing time as he would in another club. However, he could go on to another club as well and become the star for that club, such as Ozil with Arsenal and di Maria with Man United.

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  2. Shiv Gidumal

    Interesting post on a player with a rising stock.

    Another intriguing aspect of Isco’s story is his adaptation to Real Madrid’s system. Since Carlo Ancelotti plays a 4-3-3 and expects all his midfielders to play hard on defense, Isco has had to adjust his game to a more defensive style of play. He even said as much in an interview, claiming that he plays himself “on the left,” which is an attacking position. This makes you wonder which of Real Madrid’s big 3 of Ronaldo, Benzema, and Bale he removes from the lineup.

    Either way, Isco’s willingness to adapt has contrasted with controversial player Gareth Bale’s disposition towards the team. Bale views himself as a goalscorer and many spectators believe he essentially ignores defense completely.

    As Isco continues to adapt and succeed for Real Madrid, his stock will continue to rise and he will become a more and more recognizable name.

    Reply
  3. Shiv Gidumal

    Interesting post on a player with a fast rising stock.

    Another intriguing aspect of Isco’s story is his adaptation to Real Madrid’s system. Since Carlo Ancelotti plays a 4-3-3 and expects all his midfielders to play hard on defense, Isco has had to adjust his game to a more defensive style of play. He even said as much in an interview, claiming that he plays himself “on the left,” which is an attacking position. This makes you wonder which of Real Madrid’s big 3 of Ronaldo, Benzema, and Bale he removes from the lineup.

    Either way, Isco’s willingness to adapt has contrasted with controversial player Gareth Bale’s disposition towards the team. Bale views himself as a goalscorer and many spectators believe he essentially ignores defense completely.

    As Isco continues to adapt and succeed for Real Madrid, his stock will continue to rise and he will become a more and more recognizable name.

    Reply
  4. Muthoka Muthoka

    This is a great piece Carlos. I am a big fan of Isco and I believe he is underated as a player and so are a many other playmakers in the soccer world today. Reminds me of a post I had made earlier this semester about the failure to appreciate midfielders in today’s game. In this piece, I had argued that we tend to focus on strikers and forget that the midfielders and the defenders are equally good. You can read the article here http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/2015/01/22/ballon-dor-is-it-all-about-goals/

    Reply
    1. Carlos Reyes Stoneham Post author

      I totally agree! Especially at big teams like Real Madrid, there is a lot of focus on strikers and not enough on defensive players/mid-fielders. This is actually one of the reasons that I really appreciate players like James and Isco who are very versatile and can player anywhere.

      Reply
      1. Justin Fu

        Hey guys! Clearly we are all in agreement that strikers are significantly more appreciated than other players, but I implore you to ask yourselves why are they so over-appreciated? Of course there are many factors such as how strikers may be the best looking players on the team or have the most sponsorship deals, but I would venture to say that forwards are lauded by the fans for a more grounded reason: they score goals.

        It’s not just the fact that they score more goals, but also that “goals scored” is one of the rare statistics that are easily collected and compared between players in the fluid game of soccer. Thus, when looking on paper, of course a striker is superior to a defender when the striker has scored more goals. However, we cannot be so simple as to limit the spotlight to a single position, I would venture to say that the spotlight has always shown brighter on those who contribute to the offensive side of the game. For example, even the most well-known defenders in the game, such as Franz Beckenbauer – who popularized the sweeper role that participates in attacks in the midfield or Roberto Carlos – who was one of the most offensive defenders in the history of the game, have significant contributions on the opposition’s side of the pitch. Without a statistic that can easily quantify how many goals a defender prevents it is challenging to bring these athletes to the same limelight. This is just one of the many reasons that the most “famous” players are attackers, but I’m sure you guys have other reasons you have seen/felt/observed.

        Why do you think certain players get more attention when they are comparable to lesser known players?

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  5. Justin Fu

    Great post on a relatively unappreciated player, Carlos. I have also noticed that for the level of talent that Isco displays on the field, how little buzz there is about him. He is still very young (born in 1992) and he still has much time to step into the spotlight, especially with the age of the current midfielders that the Spanish National Team has rostered – Isco is the youngest at age 22.

    On a separate note, I thought it was interesting that you were able to back up your claim by citing Isco’s stats this season. Isco currently has 8 assists and is indeed in the realm of other greats such as Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez, Koke, and Benzema. He surpasses Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez who only have 7 assists. The use of statistics has definitely grown in the past decade, but there is still significant analytical “catching up” to do to equal those in sports such as basketball, baseball and football. Inherently, there is difficulty in measuring a game which is so free flowing as soccer, but the growth of big data analytics, as a whole industry, certainly is pushing the game in this direction.

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