Guillem Balague: The Isco Issue - where will the Real Madrid star go?

Guillem Balague
The 24-year-old star was on target to take down Sunday's opponents, winning the praise of his coach who hopes to see him stay next season
The 24-year-old star was on target to take down Sunday's opponents, winning the praise of his coach who hopes to see him stay next season

Forget for a minute signing the best. Sometimes football’s wheeling and dealing these days is concerned with winning the race for the signature of a player, not so much because they actually want him but primarily because their main rivals do.

Which brings me to rather neatly to the case of Isco - a player who when he was signed as a 21-year-old for Real Madrid from Malaga in 2013 for something in the region of €30 million was considered to be very much the future of Spanish football.

At Malaga he was a superstar playing behind the main striker and he almost made it to the semi finals of the Champions League before Malaga were controversially beaten by Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund.

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Isco opted for Real Madrid in preference to joining his former manager, Manuel Pellegrini who wanted to bring him to the Premier League with Manchester City so much that it almost hurt.

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His career at the Bernabeu always blew rather hot and cold and never reached the heights predicted for him, and under the rule of Zinadine Zidane - a man who knows more than plenty about the art of attacking midfield football - he has made just 14 La Liga starts this season.

Now here’s the rub. Just how much Real Madrid and Zidane REALLY want Isco is something only they know. What they also know more than anything else is that they are not about to let him leave Real Madrid to join arch-rivals Barcelona and even more specifically to join them for free when his contract expires in 2018 when he will be able to leave as a free agent.

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Barcelona have already made inquiries and asked him if he would have any problems kicking his heels unti such time as he became available and he has replied in the affirmative. As they say, what goes around, comes around, and Isco, after not an altogether happy period in the capital, can now for the first time sense that he it truly is master of his own destiny…but only up to a point.

To assume, as it has been reported, that Florentino Perez and the men in suits at Madrid are going to allow Isco to spend all this year and part of the next playing keepy-uppy with the ball in training and making the odd appearance before waving a fond-ish farewell and swapping the Bernabeu for Barcelona, is to fail to get any kind of handle on the thought processes of those in charge of the largest sporting organisation on the planet.

Barcelona, like some other clubs, may well feel that Isco, still only a couple weeks shy of his 25th birthday, desperate to play and fresh as the proverbial daisy, may well have not been used by Real Madrid to his full potential. They may also be of the opinion that with the sands of time beginning to run down on the magnificent career of Andres Iniesta, the timing of his arrival to Catalonia would be absolutely perfect.

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But that doesn’t mean that Madrid are about to let him leave the capital of the country to play for the club representing the capital of Catalonia at any price, especially for free.

Manchester City are no longer interested in signing him and nor are Tottenham Hotspur, who certainly made inquiries in the summer, before being put off by the level of wages on offer at Real Madrid that they were never going to be able to match.

In fact despite some people who would have you believe that Isco is ‘hotter’ than his native Benalmadena in August, my understanding is that the Premier League clubs aren’t exactly tumbling over each other to try to get him.

The truth is what Isco wants above anything else is to play, and play regularly, and hopefully if he can manage to do that establish himself as a mainstay in the Spanish national side.

Whether or not he will be able to do that at Real Madrid, I’m not so sure. What I am fairly confident about is that they will tell him how vital he is to their future plans, how he will feature much more in games and then offer him a very tempting contract to continue at the club.

And while it certainly isn’t just about the money, expect a 'golden handcuff’ contract that will probably tie him to the club for the next four or five years and will see his wages rise from around €3 million net a year to around €8 million net a year.

What impact will Eden Hazard's rumoured move have on Isco's role at Real Madrid?
What impact will Eden Hazard's rumoured move have on Isco's role at Real Madrid?

And then he will probably sign and Madrid may, or may not, keep to their word. There’s absolutely no doubt that the club want to sign Eden Hazard. History tells us that, generally speaking, what Real Madrid want, Real Madrid normally get. But I don’t see it being an easy transfer, in fact, it seems one very unlikely one at this point in time.

Not least because Chelsea are going to want record breaking amounts of money before even contemplating the sale of one of their crown jewels. If he does come his wages will be huge and he isn’t about to move from England to Spain to warm the Bernabeu bench.

So what will happen with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, both of whom have no plans to leave? Not my problem, Snr Perez will be saying, that will be for Zidane to sort out, and as for Isco, whatever happens to his starting XI aspirations then.

But that’s for tomorrow and in the meantime Barcelona will have to look elsewhere while James Rodriguez’s people will have to start looking for an alternative destination for their Colombian star whose days at the Bernabeu are surely numbered.

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