Isco Alarcón or Pope FrancIsco
Isco generated many headlines in Sunday's papers but the one that caught my eye was in Argentine sports daily Olé: “Spain prays to Pope FrancIsco...”. The player from Benalmadena caused a media stir after his spell-bounding performance at the Bernabeu on Saturday and interest in Argentina was no exception with it's significant Italian and Spanish communities. The Real Madrid striker was on target twice in the first half and in the second 45' turned on the style with neat flicks and tricks against Italy in a key Russia 2018 qualifying game. Certain Argentine outlets claimed that his performance reminded them of the great Ricardo Bochini, the infamous Independiente player from the 70's who had limited mobility but was incredibly effective.
Maybe we were less surprised ourselves as we've seen what Isco is capable of for some time but clearly after Saturday his talent has generated overseas interest in the player. It's staggering to think that he's yet to star in a World Cup or European Championship and is still only 25 years old. It would be wrong to say that he's a late bloomer as we've seen his development since playing junior level football but' it's true to say that it hasn't always been plain sailing for him. His physical attributes, big head, short legs (Bochini again) and manner of dribbling (a talent not deemed as key by many coaches) have been negatives levelled at him in the past.
Unai Emery didn't want him in his Valencia first team and this prompted a move back to Málaga where he cut his teeth as a player. His time at Real Madrid has seen him play in the shadow of the "BBC" (Bale, Benzema & Cristinano) trio and face fierce competition in midfield with the likes of Kroos, Modric, James Rodriguez, Kovacic, Casemiro and now Asensio jostling for starting positions. The Bernabéu crowd love to see him in action but not all managers felt that way about him. He needed a game like this, one in which he almost single-handedly saw off the mighty Italian team and I think it's fair to say that Isco will be on the plane to Russia next summer.