Most of us would prefer that some of the things said when we were 17-years-old would not resurface several years later; much less in the faces of a worldwide audience and the notoriously pesky Madrid-based journalistic crew. Isco, however, displayed what is hopefully only the first of many skillful maneuvers as a merengue yesterday when answering about his boyhood contempt for his new club, Real Madrid, in his first ever press conference at the Bernabéu.
By now you've surely heard about Isco's juvenile preference for the humility of Barcelona over the arrogance of Real Madrid. The youth are, after all, quite a susceptible bunch. So, you can forgive the boy for failing to recognize that the Catalan club's own inevitable arrogance is successfully concealed behind its perpetuated faux-humility campaign. The now more mature, 21-year-old Isco said all the right things about being overjoyed to be in Madrid and expressed his eagerness to better himself and the squad. He even played his way out the comical 'dog named Messi' situation by saying he also has one named Figo (hopefully a post-2000 Figo reference).
But back to this loyalty thing. At a club like Real Madrid where the international reach and appeal is so high, it can make for some awkward scenarios when players/coaches put aside existing allegiances to don the white. Mesut Özil also favored Barcelona before coming to Madrid, the original Ronaldo and Luis Figo joined after stints on the dark side and Cristiano Ronaldo still voices his adoration for his prior club much like José Mourinho did before making his move back to Chelsea.
All the men named are adored figures at Madrid, though Mourinho also managed to be despised from a large sect of the fanbase. But on the whole, prior allegiances (even if they were to Barca) are forgotten fairly quickly. That's on the condition that the player/coach can produce, that is. Once they dazzle us, all is forgiven. As it should be.
It's easy for fans and the local media to try to project their own rabid love for the club onto players (though it could easily be argued that the media doesn't have the club's best interest at heart in Madrid). The reality is, however, that the perspective is different on the players' end. Playing for Real Madrid is the mountaintop of a professional footballer's career, true. But I'd much rather hear about a player's intention to put Real Madrid back on its rightful spot back on the mountaintop of world football. So I have no problem with Isco not kissing the badge at his presentation and saying he'd like to earn that right through his performances.
The promotion of youth players has a spot in the club loyalty conversation, of course. All fans love it when the youngsters progress through the club and make it into the first-team. Undying love for the club is often cited as a reason to promote youth players when we, the fans, debate over how to fill a roster. There is certainly something to that argument, I will admit. For me though, it comes down to ability first. The international flavor, history of success and frankly, the money of our club make it possible to attract the world's best players to fill a role. Of course, a youth product with that ability is icing on the cake and someone we can all throw our fullest support behind.
Reflecting on the past season, the two players that really stood out to me for really wearing their Madridista hearts on their sleeves were Sergio Ramos and Gonzalo Higuaín, both players who began their first-team professional careers elsewhere. At the time this was written, Higuaín is a lock to take his career to Arsenal. Here's to a successful time in London, Gonzalo. We certainly wouldn't mind a few flattering words sent back to your former club.