Amid the slump under Julen Lopetegui, the record-breaking scoreless run, and the recovery under Santiago Solari, there is an ongoing subplot at Real Madrid that will be intriguing many outside clubs.
Isco, who was tipped just months ago as the future of Los Blancos’ midfield, has not started a single game since the 5-1 defeat to Barcelona on Oct. 28. Since Solari’s initial appointment as interim boss, the 26-year-old has played a total of 78 minutes and was left out of the squad altogether for the Champions League win over Roma on Tuesday.
Amid reports of a poor relationship between coach and player, something will likely have to change soon if the Spain international is to have a future at the Bernabeu. As his career in Madrid seemingly goes down in flames, here are seven clubs that could rescue Isco from the hell of his current exile.
City have been linked with Isco consistently since 2013 when the talented Spaniard ultimately chose a move to Los Blancos over a reunion with his former Malaga manager and mentor Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad. Possessing all the attributes necessary to succeed in Guardiola’s game, and six years younger than David Silva, Isco could emerge as the preeminent City legend’s long-term successor, particularly if the prodigious Brahim Diaz moves on – potentially to the Bernabeu – as was reported in October.
Bayern need help, one way or another. Their Bundesliga form has been remarkable in its indifference – six wins from 12 games, just the fifth-highest goal tally – and they’ve lacked the usual creative spark. Experimenting with Thomas Muller in a central attacking midfield role is reaping little reward, while James Rodriguez reportedly wants to return to Madrid. Perhaps a deal could be struck to bring in Isco as a replacement, though Bayern, not known for spending massive amounts of money, may be put off by a lofty price tag.
Even more so than Bayern, United are desperate for some kind of attacking impetus. Jose Mourinho’s side lacks a true link-up man between midfield and attack – Paul Pogba has been tried there, Juan Mata is never entirely trusted – and a talented forward line is not being exploited. A blockbuster signing such as Isco would reinvigorate a vapid side and a disgruntled fan base, and he has the talent and the profile to become an Old Trafford hero. If Ed Woodward and Co. back Mourinho in January, the Portuguese boss should be knocking at his former employers’ door.
It was reported earlier this season that Juventus could pursue Isco as a priority signing next summer, and they may perhaps be inclined to bring forward their timeline to January given the situation at the Bernabeu and the Bianconeri’s plans for European domination. A fearsome forward line would relish Isco as its chief supplier, but would Cristiano Ronaldo allow it? Juve’s crown jewel allegedly had a strained relationship with Isco in Madrid, and the Spaniard said in September that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was not being missed since his exit. Fitting both stars in one side could be problematic.
Manager Maurizio Sarri has made an impressive impact at Chelsea since his arrival in the summer, but there’s room for improvement. Jorginho, as the integral anchor, allows his flanking central midfielders to roam forward, and while the likes of N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, and Ross Barkley all have their attributes, none are nearly as effective an attacking weapon from midfield as Isco. On-loan Los Blancos midfielder Mateo Kovacic will likely depart at the conclusion of his temporary deal, and Eden Hazard’s “dream” move to Madrid almost seems inevitable. Negotiating Isco’s arrival as a form of return would make a lot of sense from a Blues perspective.
Napoli may seemingly lack the prestige and financial muscle to pull off a signing of Isco’s magnitude, but grizzled owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has hinted repeatedly at such a headline move. The Partenopei’s key advantage is that Isco was manager Carlo Ancelotti’s first signing as Madrid boss and has not enjoyed as much playing time since the Italian departed. A manager of Ancelotti’s nous knows how rare these opportunities are; if De Laurentiis backs a pursuit, Isco could be the signing who allows the Campanian club to take that next step. Club icon Marek Hamsik is now 31 and previously spoke of his temptation for a move to China, and a sale overseas would certainly help Napoli fund a move for Isco. Still, they will likely have to ensure their progression to the Champions League knockout round to hold any powers of attraction.
PSG are always on the lookout for expensive, statement additions, so the opportunity to go in for Isco may prove too tempting to resist. Another team with a scintillating attack line, PSG would have no trouble paying Madrid’s asking price, and his three Champions League triumphs make him a very attractive proposition as PSG look to conquer European football for the first time. Continued speculation that Neymar may leave the club next summer would only make Isco’s signing more realistic given his ability to play as a second striker or drift in off the wing.