By David Cartlidge
Hard work and determination. Probably not the first two words that spring to mind when it comes to Isco Alcarcon.
But those are certainly pertinent terms when it comes to the Real Madrid midfielders career over the past 12 months or so. A career that had perhaps stalled and had more question marks over it than anything else, has been turned completely around.
Isco, in the present, is one of Real Madrid’s most important players. In the future, this could well be his team. The one that he alone steers, with a little help from the various young players Real Madrid have snapped up over the last few years - Marco Asensio, Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos to name just a few.
But it’s Isco, who is no longer a potential talent, that the spotlight is now upon. It was different sometime ago when he was in the shadows at the club. A packed squad as bursting at the seems with talent and competition for places was rife. In the sporadic minutes Isco did receive he didn’t seem to be settled. There was a pressure which comes with trying to impress, and Isco often fell foul of that.
He had no real settled place in the squad, let alone first team. He was on the periphery. Given the ability of Isco and his style, he’s not someone who can really come into games cold. He needs to be handed regular minutes so he can understand the team and system around him. From there he can control it.
A performance against Atletico Madrid in November of 2016 was a turning point for the player. After showing patience for so long, his opportunity arose. But it would be outside his comfort zone, and Isco would have to show something else to set himself apart from his teammates that vied for a single spot on the team. In that game at the Vicente Calderon there was an edge to his game. He would regain possession and scrap in 50/50’s, more often than not coming out on top, and then also be required to pursue his usual attacking duties. Isco did so in fine fashion and came off after the game dripping in sweat and with his shirt and shorts dirtied. Isco had left his comfort zone to become a Real Madrid player.
It’s what you must do sometimes to succeed at the very top, and now whenever a young player questions their future at Real Madrid they should look to Isco’s example. Dig in, focus and contribute to the team. Do that and the opportunity will come - but only if you’re willing to sacrifice some of your game. Isco did exactly that, and now finds himself in a position where he’s playing to his strengths in the team.
A regular spot in the XI has been his reward, and now a new contract. It’s incredible to think links to Barcelona existed at one point, with Isco apparently unhappy at Real Madrid and willing to leave in order to revive his career. Isco never seemed to flirt with such talk however and was only focused on making himself a success in the white shirt of Real Madrid.
Now, with James Rodriguez out on loan and seemingly unlikely to return on a permanent basis, and with Gareth Bale’s star descending, it’s Isco who is regarded as the creator in chief of this team. He’s become as integral as Luka Modric in the midfield, and the combination of the two has elevated Real Madrid to a level of incredible success. Where once Barcelona were regarded as having the best midfield in the world, Real Madrid can now claim that title - and it’s largely down to Isco’s emergence.
The hard work for Isco doesn’t stop here however. At Real Madrid the lines between sinking and swimming are fine, but at least the 25-year-old now knows what it takes to succeed. There is also the small matter of the World Cup around the corner. Isco, at last, is finally on the right path,