Real Madrid

Zidane: "Isco knows I love him, but he's part of squad rotation"

Isco has received a ringing endorsement from Zinedine Zidane, but the Real Madrid coach offered no assurances over playing time for the midfielder.

Zidane: "Isco knows I love him, but he's part of squad rotation"

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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday’s game against Valencia at Mestalla that he rates Isco highly but fell short of confirming that is trying to persuade the attacking midfielder to remain at the Santiago Bernabéu.

After creating both goals in a 2-0 LaLiga win at home to Espanyol on Saturday, the Spain international stated his preference is to remain at Madrid, while also speaking of the need for more playing time, and announced a decision on his future will be made before the end of the season.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, Zidane did not rebuke the 24-year-old for publicly making his case.

"Isco is a very good footballer"

"I think it's understandable and I have no problem with it," he said. "You ask him and he replies to those questions. But I'm sure that he's fully focused. He's a very good footballer, I regard him highly and he's a player that is part of squad rotation."

"A player could play 25-26 games in a row and then not play. You could ask him and I'm sure he'd say he's not happy. I want my players to be ready for when that chance arrives. We've seen it works. I'm going to keep doing this until the end of the season. I'm not going to change."

Pressed on whether or not he had specifically asked Isco, whose deal expires in June 2018, to commit to the club, Zidane said: "Isco knows I love him, I love the way he plays. I consider him to be a great footballer. I have 23 very good players at my disposal. It's tough. The players understand that. When you drop a player, somebody else takes his place. It's nothing personal. I believe I have a good squad. All of my players can come in and do a good job."

Pepe renewal

The future of Pepe, who is out of contract in June, is also under scrutiny, but Zidane insisted his focus remains on the veteran defender's performances.

"That's what I'm interested in, what I want," he said. "As for the contract, it has nothing to do with me. I have faith in Pepe. There will be times when he won't play. That won't change."