Solari's selection choice for Eibar will define Isco's postion as either an undisputed starter or an expandable bench warmer.
Since the arrival of Santiago Solari, Isco has lost his starting place at Real Madrid. Not only has he not started any of the four games since the Argentinean coach took charge, but he has had fewer minutes (51’) than any other player, except Fede Valverde (44’).
When asked about the situation of the Spanish international before the game against Celta Vigo almost two weeks ago, Solari said that he still had not recovered his fitness following surgery for acute appendicitis that had kept him side-lined for one month.
"We know his quality and how special he is in his position. We know all it. He is training to get himself in top shape. It's true that he just came out of a delicate operation and it's not easy to be 100 percent,” said the Madrid coach.
Since the Vigo game, Isco has put in two good performances for Spain, indicating that he is back to – or at least close to – 100 percent. As such the verity of Solari’s comments will be tested in his selection decision this Saturday – a decision which could define Isco’s position under the Argentinean: either as an undisputed starter (as he was under Julen Lopetegui) or an expandable bench warmer.
Isco returned following his surgery for the clash with Levante on October 20, a game which he started under Lopetegui, as he did for the following two games against Viktoria Plzen and Barcelona in Camp Nou. In total, he played 204 minutes of Lopetegui’s three final games in charge.
But it was the arrival of Solari when the situation became bleaker for the Malaga man. He has played only 14 percent of the total minutes over the four games since Solari took charge; while Lopetegui used him 62 percent of the time that he was available.
Isco under Zidane
Another start on the bench would leave him in a delicate position – although a position not unknown to him during Zidane’s reign. With the non-negotiable front three of Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo, and Zidane’s confidence in the Casemiro-Kroos-Modric partnership in midfield, Isco found himself relegated to the bench when the Frenchman took charge. He gradually regained prominence and became a pillar in the ‘Unit B’ team that went on to win the league in 2016-17; at the same time that Bale was missing a lot of games due to injury.
Isco’s resurgence while the Bale was struggling with injury led Zidane to start him ahead of the Welshman for the Champions League final in Cardiff in 2017 – a situation which was repeated in Kiev against Liverpool in May. Although Isco did have some difficult moments under Zidane last season also. All in all, in fact, for Zidane he played only 52 pecent of the time that he was fit – significantly less than with Ancelotti (65 percent), Benitez (62 percent) and the aforementioned 62 percent under Lopetegui.
This Saturday, Solari will decide if the 180 decent minutes he put for Spain against Croatia and Bosnia last week are enough to warrant him a place in his starting XI against Eibar. If not, he will remain consigned to the bench – as he so far has under the Argentinean – with no guarantee of getting off it.