Ever since he burst onto the scene five years ago, Isco has always looked capable of becoming one of the best attacking midfielders in the world.
Now, finally, it is happening. In 2012, Isco was making waves with Malaga, playing a key role in Manuel Pellegrini’s team’s unexpected march to the Champions League quarter-final and then starring on the international stage as Spain won the European Under-21 Championship.
His subsequent move to Real Madrid was no surprise and he made a bright start to his Bernabeu career, scoring a late winner on his league debut against Real Betis. But then followed a long period of frustration, with Isco repeatedly seeming to be heading for the exit door after failing to establish a regular place in the starting line-up.
Isco’s main problem was that he was never really given an opportunity to play in his best position as a central attacking midfielder, just behind the front two but with licence to roam.
Playing in that position was essentially impossible because it simply did not exist in the 4-3-3 shape employed almost exclusively by coaches Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez and Zinedine Zidane. Isco was therefore forced to compromise and fill in wherever he was asked, occupying a range of roles which didn’t really suit him.
Finally, however, towards the end of last season Zidane made the break away from the 4-3-3, which was looking defensively fragile because of Cristiano Ronaldo’s unwillingness to track back.
Ronaldo’s repositioning as a centre-forward alongside Karim Benzema meant a change in formation, with the defensive importance of Casemiro and the ball-playing skills of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric virtually forcing Zidane’s hand into fielding a midfield diamond.
That shape arose by necessity rather than design, but it was perfectly suited to Isco who finally had the chance to really show what he can do.
Needless to say, he made the very most of that opportunity by shining in his team’s glorious conclusion to last season, and he continued on Tuesday night with another starring role in the Super Cup win against Manchester United.
Now, any suggestion that he could be sold would be ludicrous, and a new contract is just around the corner. Better late than never.