Isco 20 Midfielder Malaga
At the beginning of this summer, Malaga were that side across European football that everyone knew to keep an eye on. Backed by relatively new owners flush with seemingly endless streams of foreign money and huge ambition for their club, there were plenty who just waited for bidding wars between them and Paris Saint-Germain to break out all over Europe.
Yet, those battles never happened. Malaga, set to take on the Champions League for the very first time in their history, were easy targets for the rumour mill although none of the audacious transfer targets were actually picked up. Every up-and-coming youngster and declining international star that looked to be on the move were linked with the Spanish club. Usually the phrases “big-spending” and/or “oil-rich” were included to describe the club.
It was sort of expected that they would eventually just splurge. Their first season had been a success thanks to good, solid investment. Santi Cazorla, Jeremy Toulalan, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Nacho Monreal, Carlos Kameni, Joris Mathijisen and Joaquin were brought in during a busy summer so that the first stage of the project, Champions League qualification, could be achieved. It was.
Everyone could be forgiven for expecting another wave of signings to be made this summer. It was instead a summer filled with stories of financial woes grabbing the club. A lack of cash flow and wages going unpaid quickly replaced those hopeful transfer rumours.
Malaga looked, at least from the outside, to be a club in trouble as they allowed their shining light to leave for the same fee that they had signed him for the previous year. Santi Cazorla had inspired Malaga into the top four in Spain. His wonderful free-kick at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid was the pick of a very good season for the Spain international.
Malaga’s only snapped up two new recruits this summer and two new loan signings. The only fee confirmed to have been paid out was less than €1 million to Manchester City for the right to loan Roque Santa Cruz. Lucky for Malaga, they forked out the unbelievably low-slung amount of €6 million last summer for the truly exceptional Isco.
Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez, to give him his full name, is a joy to watch on the football pitch as are most of Spain’s youth products nowadays. Isco just has an incredible ability to appear like he is floating through games on a breeze so we can’t fathom why they didn’t battle for more money. We can only speculate that Valencia let him go as they either have someone better just coming through their ranks or they know something about him that we haven’t found out yet.
Isco has wonderful control, the capability to take on and beat players and a superb passing range as well as the resilience to take a challenge or two. Being rather small, there is always a worry that more physical opposition could try to boot him out of games. Thankfully, he keeps dustings himself down and coming back for more.
He does get worked up more often than he should and there have been perhaps too many bookings and sending-offs than is normal but he’s driven a player and that is clear to see. Even when he is floating across the park, there is an evident desire to succeed. We reckon he’s allowed the odd misdemeanour here or there.
The last year has been pretty, pretty good even if the Olympics were a bit of a disaster for the young playmaker. It appeared that the entire Spanish side that travelled to London struggled for some reason; so the stuttering wasn’t his entire fault.
The departure of Cazorla has allowed Isco and Malaga to flourish; especially in the Champions League. The performances of the 20 year-old in the opening two rounds of the group matches were truly wonderful and befitting of a playmaker with many more years of experience in their craft. He moved around Zenit in September, who did plenty of big spending to bolster their side, like they were barely there; scoring two goals as he masterminded a glorious 3-0 win.
With each passing week, he gains more and more admirers for his performances and adds something close to a million or two to the price tag next to his name. Even for someone so young, he played like he’s been nestled into the space between the defence and midfield for many, many years.
He’s turned out in a Spain shirt for the under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19, under-20, under-21 and under-23 teams. It’s surely only a matter of time before a senior cap follows; though if he played for any other nation, he’d be well on his way to 20 caps by now. Isco is a much talked about player and has that wonderful ability of delivering on an almost weekly basis. When he isn’t involved in a game, he makes it his business to get on the ball and set up an opportunity for a team-mate. He isn’t frightened of taking responsibility.
With Cazorla gone, Isco has stepped in and made Malaga function like nothing has changed. He is a little rough around certain edges but not enough that it really affects his game. He is already half way through guiding his club side to a pretty wondrous first year in the Champions League. Isco is a player that’s going to be around the very highest level of years to come. That’ll either be part of a lasting dynasty with Malaga or when someone stumps up enough cash to prise him away from south Spain.
“He might just be the most exciting young player in Spain. Skilful, confident, technical, explosive and graceful the boy from Belamadena has it all and is something very special. He's made for the biggest stage. Are you watching the 'Isco Show'? If not you're missing out.” - David Cartlidge (Spanish Football Correspondent)
“If there is a criticism, it's a minor one: he maybe doesn't score quite as many goals as he might do. Fabulous player and lots still to come from him.” - John Dobson (European Football Correspondent)
C+ A star of the very near future
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