Real Madrid: There might be one last hope for Isco

Real Madrid, Isco (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Isco (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images) /

The summer 2021 transfer window should be a sea of change for Real Madrid, but what “should” happen and what “will” happen are two increasingly distinct routes. With the hiring of Carlo Ancelotti, Real have signaled not only a desire for stability during a difficult economic period, but they have also hinted at the possibility of having to “make do” with underperforming attackers who will be difficult to move.

Nearly every Madridista dreams of Kylian Mbappe, but they must prepare for a 2021-2022 season without a superstar. But even if Mbappe signs, Real Madrid will need to get a lot more out of players like Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, and Isco.

This trio of talented, experienced players has offered very little these past two seasons, with Bale at least scoring goals on loan at Spurs. Isco had some bright moments in the second half of the 2019-2020 season, but he was reduced to a bit player last season. Hazard? He is a sad story due to injuries.

Most of the discussion has centered around Hazard and Bale, who are two big-name players once among the world’s top five and have massive salaries that may be impossible to move.

Isco is one for the football romantics

Isco’s case, to me, is even more intriguing. Because even though he doesn’t have an exorbitant wage, he does not hold much transfer value. And with Ancelotti now on board, Real Madrid may wonder if it is more valuable to keep Isco than to sell him for a maximum of 20 million euros in savings when combining the expected transfer fee and wages removed.

I think Isco will always be one of those players who divides opinion. You have one camp that is so caught up in his natural ability that they fail to acknowledge his flaws, and you have another camp that is so focused on those flaws that they do not fairly summarize the ways in which he can help Real Madrid.

Isco is someone I like to call a “romantic’s” player. He is a beautiful footballer. The way he seamlessly weaves through traffic, the way he can slip through balls into the penalty box, and the way he caresses the ball with his right foot when cutting inside for a shot from the left are all indicative of a class player who really could have been so much more for Real had he been able to adjust to a Galactic team.

But there is one man capable of seeing these traits, getting the most out of these traits, finding a niche role for the player, supporting him emotionally, and mitigating the interference his playing style may cause on other midfielders and attackers. Yes, I think that man is Ancelotti, based on what I have seen from his managerial style throughout his career.

Real Madrid will probably have to get the most out of Isco next season

Ancelotti is Isco’s last hope at Real Madrid. I’m sure Real will try to see if they can find a good offer for Isco, but I am even more sure of two things. Firstly, that Isco wants to stay at Real and play under Ancelotti as opposed to either taking a paycut and/or playing for a worse club. Secondly, that any club Isco actually would want to go to (or that would actually pay Real something significant on top of Isco’s wages) is not indeed interested.

Real Madrid are in a tough spot with some of their contracts. They basically may have to head into 2021-2022 sticking with these players. That’s the reality of the situation right now. And then it’s up to Ancelotti, Real, and those players to make the most of things.

Isco has shown us in 2019-2020 that he is not washed. The 2020-2021 season was a rough one for him, but, let’s be honest, he’s not alone in that. And at 29 years old, he is still, in theory, in his prime athletically. He does need to get into better shape both physically and mentally, but I can’t help but feel that this idea of “who he was supposed to be” is weighing on him.

Ancelotti’s task will be as much one of man-management as it is tactical, but, well, that’s a job he can do and has done before. There’s still quality in Isco, and as much as I wouldn’t fault Real Madrid for just wanting to close the book on the Isco chapter at the Santiago Bernabeu, I can’t help but think they’ll have to make this work.

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And if Isco WANTS to make this work, which I do truly think he does, then this is his final chance. The transition to Ancelotti, the move to a different style of football that focuses on attack rather than control and winning at all costs is an intriguing possibility. It is potentially one that benefits the versatile Isco considerably, and we know that Ancelotti is willing to play Isco in that “free role” on the left or in other positions that maximize his attacking traits. That just might be the sweetener that coaxes a surprise bounce-back season from the Andalusian.