You would think James and Isco would have made the most of Gareth Bale’s injury to muscle their way into the Real Madrid first eleven, but you’d be mistaken. Both players have performed well below what is expected of them as was demonstrated on Saturday when the Bernabéu faithful whistled them off the pitch as they were being substituted. The club has not been impressed with the attitudes of either midfielder and the fans’ vitriol during the Madrid derby points to one or even both of them being shipped on in the summer.
James’ fall from grace this season has been extraordinary. The Colombian refused to cooperate with Rafa Benítez and only played 46.5% of the time under the Spanish coach (only starting nine of the 17 games during the former Liverpool boss’s tenure). When Carlo Ancelotti was in charge he featured 84% of the time. He has also had a long list of off-the-pitch problems since the Italian manager was sacked: missing eleven matches through injury and making the front pages for the wrong reasons on New Year’s Day following a that infamous police chase on his way to training. He also ruffled the club’s feathers back in November when he asked that his salary be raised to somewhere in the region of what Ramos and Bale get. In spite of all these problems, Madrid believe Zidane is capable of getting the South American to knuckle down again and only an absurd offer would see the 2014 World Cup hero departing the Spanish capital before the start of the 2016/17 campaign.
Isco’s situation is different. The Malaga native has shown flashes of genius now and then since joining Los Blancos, but has failed to show the type of consistency that is demanded at a team like Real Madrid. The club was expecting a greater return from the Andalusian in terms of goals and assists. He featured during Zidane’s first few games as manager, but the Frenchman is beginning to lose faith in the number 22: Isco has been taken off in each of the last three games and started on the bench against Athletic Club. While the love of the fans protected him before, the ire directed at him during the home defeat to Atlético means that Madrid will be open to offers for him come the summer.