As Julen Lopetegui shapes his Real Madrid squad for the coming season, one player in particular has been identified as a cornerstone of the project: Isco. Indeed, the new head coach's complete faith in the Andalusian has led Los Blancos to rule out moving for Chelsea and Belgium star Eden Hazard.
Real Madrid are Hazard admirers, but feel it's Isco time
Barring an unexpected change of plans between now and the end of the summer window, that is the LaLiga giants' decision. Signing Hazard would require a huge financial outlay for a position which the club feels is already well covered. Real are firm admirers of Hazard, but they have no intention of buying for buying's sake.
They also believe that the time has come to hand a more crucial role to Isco, a player in whom Lopetegui placed his absolute trust during his stint as Spain boss, even in the midfielder's toughest moments at the Bernabéu. "In the national team I've got the coach's confidence, which maybe I haven't managed to earn at Madrid," he admitted after his hat-trick in La Roja's 6-1 win over Argentina in March.
What's more, Chelsea would not be expected to let Hazard, their major star, leave without some persuasion. Given the figures being paid in today's market, Real are aware that they would have to part with around 200m euros to secure his services - and that, with the Blues unlikely to sell after 9 August, when the Premier League transfer window closes, they wouldn't have long to get the deal done.
Asensio's first-team development also a factor
Marco Asensio's development is also an important factor in Real's stance. Last season, James Rodríguez was allowed to depart so that Asensio could get more game time, and Hazard's arrival would have a negative knock-on effect on the 22-year-old's first-team role - something that Los Merengues' decision-makers don't want to happen.
All of which means that Real Madrid are not considering attempting to make a superstar signing this summer. With Neymar and Kylian Mbappé staying at Paris Saint-Germain, Hazard was the only 'galáctico' that the European champions might have gone after, but such a move has been ruled out. Now the ball is in Isco's court. It's down to him to justify the club's faith...
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