He is often referred to as the “bearded bandy-legged beauty” by friend of Managing Madrid, Ray Hudson. Just last season I wrote that to reach his full potential he needed to leave the friendly confines of the Santiago Bernabéu. Looking back on that, I’m going to have to say I was wrong. Though, at the time, he was fighting for minutes, and now he’s more of a regular fixture on the pitch.
His full name is Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez, better known as ‘Isco’ to Madridistas worldwide. He was born in Benalmádena, Málaga, Andalusia on April 21st, 1992. From a young age Isco always had a ball at his feet, whether it was to-and-from school or after it, Isco always wants the ball. Ask anyone in the neighbourhood and they would tell you the same thing — he always has a ball.
Isco wasn’t always the center of attention. For much of his career in the Spanish Capital he was on the fringes. He was talented but frustrated. Of course, that’s all changed within the last several months. The 25-year-old attacking player has now found his place at Real Madrid.
As a child, he played for Atlético Benamiel. He would then move on to Valencia CF where he would take part in their youth system. In November of 2010 Isco would make his Valencia senior team debut in Copa del Rey, netting a brace in a 4-1 win against UD Logroñés. Just three days later he would make his La Liga debut, featuring for 20 minutes in the 2-0 home win against Getafe.
In mid-July of 2011, after helping Valencia’s B team to return to the third level of Spanish football by netting 15 goals in the campaign, Isco would sign a five-year deal with Malaga after they triggered his €6 million buyout clause. He would score his first goal for his new club in November of that year in a 3-1 win over Racing de Santander. He would finish the season with five goals and five assists in 2,170 minutes.
Isco would help Malaga qualify for the Champions League for the first time in the history of the club. In 2012 he was named UEFA’s Golden Boy where he would be seconds away from reaching an unexpected Champions League semi-final.
He would play two seasons for La Albicelestes, where he would increase his value from €6 million to €30 million, and there were plenty of clubs willing to pay that price. Two of those teams were Real Madrid and Manchester City.
Pellegrini wasn’t shy about wanting Isco at Manchester City, but as I mentioned, they weren’t the only club interested. Florentino Perez knew that to keep bringing in Galácticos was not a sustainable — or even the most marketable — approach, and he wanted more Spaniards. Hee wanted to make sure that the cultural and national identity of Real Madrid was not lost.
It would be Zizou who’d instigate the transfer for Isco as the advisor to the President, and not coach Carlo Ancelotti. Perez had his doubts about Isco fitting into a team such as Real Madrid, but with Zizou’s stamp of approval they went ahead with the transfer. They would go after Isco in 2013, beating Manchester City to the punch. According to Isco it was a no-brainer going to Los Blancos. “Madrid is Madrid” he said.
On August 18th of 2013 he would make his first appearance for his new club, in a 2-1 win over Real Betis, where he would notch a goal and an assist. In his first season at the club he would make the starting eleven 23 times and was used as a substitute nine times.
So, as you can tell, he wasn’t short of playing time under Ancelotti. But, Carlo never knew quite where to play him, so he played him everywhere. The team was going to a 4-3-3, and, in a way, Carlo was shoehorning him into the system. The problem at the time, was that he didn’t fit into Ancelotti’s scheme.
When Ancelotti left, Real Madrid turned to Rafa Benitez and it was more of the same, with Isco on the periphery. Benitez would continue to use the 4-3-3 to fit the Welsh Dragon, Gareth Bale into the team. Benitez wasn’t around long, which was probably a good thing for Isco.
Zidane would take the reins of the club after Benitez’s dismissal, which was a good thing for Isco. Remember: Zidane is the guy that brought Isco to the club in the first place, and who is a player he’s very fond of. He’d begin the season as somewhat of an outsider, who was a dependable and a versatile option, but not the indispensable player he is now.
That would all change when Gareth Bale went down in an injury as he’s known to do and it would keep him on the shelf for a few months. This gave Isco the opportunity that he had been waiting for. Add to that, Zizou’s willingness to sit Ronaldo now and then and his value at the club increased.
In February of this year, Isco would score Real Madrid’s 100th goal of the season where his was the game winner. Isco would show the world that there is no “disco” without the Isco. His teammates call him “magic” because of what he can do on the pitch.
He has now established himself as both a creative force and the engine that keeps the Real Madrid train running on time. He’s an absolute joy to watch play, game in and game out. And it’s not just his on the ball skills, but when he’s not on the ball he’s still a terror to opposing defenses.
Just last month Isco signed a new deal to stay with Los Merengues until June 2022, and I don’t think there will be a lack of playing time for the bearded one. With Gareth Bale on the shelf for at least a month, I don’t think we’ll see a Real Madrid side without Isco in the starting eleven.
He has turned out to be one of my favorite players at Real Madrid, I enjoy watching him on and off the ball –- he’s a whirling dervish when he’s given the freedom to roam about, popping up now and then in pockets of space when no one is looking, thus keeping defenses wondering.
And just think, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the bandy-legged beauty.