Ever since Carlo Ancelotti left the Bernabéu in 2015, the Spain midfielder has found it hard to nail down a place under Benítez, Zidane and now Solari.
Isco’s current plight at Real Madrid is nothing new for the Spain international, whose place at the Bernabéu has never been secure since the departure of Carlo Ancelotti at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Under the Italian, Isco enjoyed his two most productive seasons in terms of playing time, but since Ancelotti left the midfielder has been through plenty of ups and downs with his successors and now finds himself on the fringes of Santiago Solari’s side, to the extent he didn’t even make the bench for the Champions League match against Roma.
Isco’s place in the starting line-up first came under question with the arrival of Rafa Benítez ahead of the 2015-16 season, the Spaniard preferring other players in his position. Under Zinedine Zidane things got worse for Isco, who along with James Rodríguez was gradually shunted to the sidelines of the Frenchman’s side.
With Ancelotti in the dugout, Isco played 65 percent of available minutes. That figure fell to 62 percent under Benítez and dropped to just below 50 percent when Zidane was in charge. Now, with Solari installed as permanent coach, Isco has failed to start a single game under the former Madrid midfielder and has featured for just 78 minutes overall since Julen Lopetegui was sacked.
Lopetegui, Isco's beacon of hope
The former Spain coach was expected to usher in a new ere for Isco. A regular for Lopetegui with the junior Spain ranks and in the senior side, Isco said after scoring a hat-trick against Argentina in a World Cup warm-up with Lopetegui at the helm that playing for his country “gives me a new lease of life. I don’t have any continuity at Madrid.”
Isco described the appointment as “good news for me” when the announcement was made. Now, with his mentor gone, Isco faces an uphill struggle to work his way into Solari’s plans.
In the summer of 2016 Isco almost left the Bernabéu, with Tottenham’s advances being welcomed by Zidane, who planned to hand Marco Asensio a greater role in the first team. However, the deal did not come together and Isco played a key role in the Liga and Champions League double of 2016-17. Zidane’s policy of rotation seemed to be suiting everybody and Isco renewed his contract during the 2017-18 season to 2022 with a release clause of 700 million euros. On the pitch last season, he and Gareth Bale vied for the remaining spot in attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, with the Welshman’s injury problems leaving plenty of room for the Málagan.
However, towards the end of the season he found himself playing less and did not attempt to hide his frustration. Given Lopetegui’s relationship with Isco it was supposed he would build his team around him after the departure of Ronaldo, and in what would prove to be Lopetegui’s last game, the 5-1 Clásico defeat in Camp Nou, Isco played the full 90 minutes.
Since then he has not managed that number over the course of six games under Solari, being left on the bench once and not even making it that far on two other occasions.