The ups and downs have been incessant for Isco Alarcon since his arrival at Real Madrid, but he is now arguably going through his toughest patch to date since signing for the club in the summer of 2013. With Julen Lopetegui at the helm, there was no doubting Isco’s expected prominence in the team—the former manager even went so far to rush him back into the team after appendicitis surgery. But with Santiago Solari, there is a negative stigma surrounding Isco and he has featured sparingly, 78 minutes out of a potential 540. The latest bombshell was Solari’s decision to drop the Spaniard from the Roma squad all together. The Argentine, and Isco himself, came out and said it was for sporting reasons not fitness, the latter was speculated by many as they saw no reason to put “La Magia” out of the 18-man squad. So what has pushed Solari to this extreme? Three potential reasons below:
1. Failure to Implement Solari’s Vision
Isco was untouchable in the spring of 2017, his form was scintillating and he was at the top of his game. He has played four Champions League finals—the last two as starters and has been crucial to the teams success. Needless to say his talent level is not what is being questioned. He has been self critical in the past and has adapted to numerous managerial styles (Del Bosque, Ancelotti, Benitez, Zidane, Lopetegui, Enrique), so it is hard to imagine he cannot work his way out of the current predicament.
As evidenced by his first five games in charge, Solari is looking to implement a more direct and fast-paced approach to Madrid’s game. A style that would require Isco to once again adapt his game, restricting the amount of touches on the ball. In such a system, with Solari utilizing the 4-3-3, one could argue that Isco would be better suited as central midfielder rather than part of the front attacking trident. Some rumors out of Spain suggest Solari had asked Isco to modify his game and the Spaniard did not agree with that assessment and made his displeasure clear to Solari behind closed doors.
2. Lack of Fitness
Recently recovered from an appendicitis surgery, Isco has struggled to regain full fitness. Each day at Valdebebas, the players follow the regime of Antonio Pintus—who has once again been given a more prominent role under Solari. Reports suggested that Lopetegui sparsely used the fitness guru. Isco is still not at the fitness levels required, i.e. he is currently out of shape, and Pintus does not see him at the 100% fitness standard.
Marcelo alluded to the work that would need to be done by Isco to get back into the team, directly after the Roma match: “All of us are adults, we are fathers, we have families and we need to know how to be professional, everyone wants to play and if you want to play then you must work.
“I’m not saying that he (Isco) is not working but when you see you have made a mistake you must improve” the Brazilian concluded.
Strong words from the second captain. Isco will have to reach his highest level yet, both physically and mentally, to make it back into the team.
3. Infamous Instagram Post
Before any further detail is provided, it should be prefaced that an Instagram post is most probably not behind Solari’s decision to drop Isco even despite what the Spanish media will try to portray. After the Roma match, many outlets like El Confidencial, suggested an Instagram post put up by Sara Salamo, Isco’s girlfriend, at the exact time that Real Madrid was playing Melilla in their opening Copa Del Rey match and the start of the Santiago Solari era. Isco attempted to temper the reaction by putting out a post the next day stating a photo could be posted to social network without it been taken at that exact moment, but rumors of his commitment already started to murmur. Again, this story should be taken with a grain of salt, Solari even mentioned after the Roma game, where he was asked about this post, that he does not even have an Instagram.
What is clear, is that Isco must now work tremendously hard and demonstrate the best attitude possible to reverse this situation. He has been able to work his way back into the team on countless occasions, but under Santiago Solari, he may well have met his toughest match. More will surely unfold in this saga in the coming days and weeks as more games hit the schedule.