Isco has taken his game to another level

Every edition of El Classico offers up talking points and sub-plots that have people like us debating over what to share with you, however, generally, the common denominator is a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi moment. Yet again that reigned true, but rather than babble on about that we want to highlight the performances of Isco, who over the past couple of weeks has illustrated why he deserves a place alongside Spain’s elite. 

Real Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 in the Supercopa, and they beat Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup last week, and in both Isco shined. Not only from a technical perspective, but mentally, he looks mature and reassured, as though he is starting to come of age. This is a frightening prospect if you are Barcelona, because at the moment they seem to be struggling. Andrés Iniesta looks like an impostor, while the quest to replace Neymar doesn’t look like it is any closer to a conclusion. Are the Catalans at risk of falling well behind Real Madrid this season?

We would like you to ponder that, before we bombard you with Isco information.

Right, so the Supercopa. Isco played a very free role for Real Madrid, sort of how Iniesta plays or Roberto Firmino for Liverpool. The Spaniard took full advantage of the longer leash, and never looked out of depth, in fact, he was at the heart of the majority of attacking plays, whether it be directly or as a passive performer. Isco made three key passes – which was more than anyone else on the pitch including Messi and Luis Suarez – and one of those touches led to a goal.

It is not just a sublime pass that Isco has in his locker either. His ability to weave his way through defenders is slick and smooth, and he did so four times without getting dispossessed, and he had similar results against Manchester United last week. Like his passing ability, not one other player came close to Isco’s dribbling numbers in the Supercopa.

The last part of Isco’s game relates to the first topic, his passing, but we want to talk about his range. When you think of Xabi Alonso, what comes to mind? Liverpool is one thing, however, his range of passing also sticks out like a Neymar sized hole. The ability to produce a vast range of passes as a midfielder is invaluable, and it can be a scarce commodity these days especially for attacking midfielders as they play a lot more incisive short balls. Isco has always been able to do that, but he has showed a longer game over the past couple of outings.

Against Manchester United he played three long balls and found the target on two occasions, whereas in the Supercopa he attempted the same task four times and made the mark three times. Those numbers might not seem much when you compare them to someone like Sergio Ramos, who hit 12 longs balls against Manchester United. However, it is impressive when you think about the space Isco operates in, and due to that restrictive environment the type of longs balls he is forced to dig out. The level of difficulty is significantly higher, and not one player, excluding Keylor Navas, played more longs balls than Isco versus Barcelona.

Last week we mentioned how interesting it will be to watch Luka Modric play as a number 10, well, the plot may have thickened, because Isco has proved he can fulfil that role. This season could be Isco’s best ever at Real Madrid since leaving Malaga in 2013, and it could also be a season where we see the Spaniard move from his seat at the talented team player’s table to the elitist table in company with Cristiano Ronaldo.

The final few digits we want you to take on-board are these:

Real Madrid – 127 appearances / 25 goals 

Spain – 20 appearances / 3 goals 

At the end of the season let’s compare these figures and see just how much better Isco gets.

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