Football News

Isco shows his “great ability” to join exclusive group of midfielders in Europe on return to football

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:51, 30 October 2023

Isco has expressed his hope of returning to contention for the Spanish national team after his fine start to the season with Real Betis.

The 31-year-old ended a nine-year association with Real Madrid in 2022, having played over 350 games for the club, winning five Champions Leagues, alongside three La Liga titles and the Copa del Rey. But life after Los Blancos wasn’t bright for Isco.

Last season, Isco signed for Sevilla but played 19 times before his contract was terminated in December. Jorge Sampaoli said Isco had failed to meet Sevilla’s expectations, despite being a “great guy” with “great ability”. Isco looked set to sign for Union Berlin for the second half of the season but the deal fell through, leaving the Spaniard without a club.

It took until the summer for Isco to find a new home, at Real Betis, and he’s hit the ground running. Isco has started every game for Real Betis in La Liga this season, scoring two goals and providing two assists so far. He also has one goal in three appearances in the Europa League, two of which have come from the start.

At the weekend, Isco scored and assisted as Real Betis beat Osasuna 2-1 in La Liga, setting up the opener and scoring the injury-time winner after Ruben Garcia had equalised late on. He had two shots, with one on target, created two chances, completed one take-on and even chipped in with a tackle, keeping Isco in an exclusive squad.

Across Europe’s top five leagues this season, just four players have registered 10+ shots on target, created 10+ chances, made 10+ tackles and completed 10+ take-ons, one of whom is Isco. The Spaniard has 11 shots on target, 31 chances created, 12 tackles and 20 completed take-ons. Not just that, but Isco also has a handful of Man of the Match awards to his name this season, getting the vote in seven of his opening 10 matches.

He is joined by another midfielder in La Liga, a man who is already staking his claim to be player of the season. Jude Bellingham has had 17 shots on target in La Liga, created 14 chances, made 14 tackles and completed 18 take-ons, thriving at Isco’s former club Real Madrid. Bellingham is also the only player to have won more Man of the Match awards in La Liga than Isco, one ahead on eight.

The other two players both come from the Premier League. James Maddison has had 15 shots on target, created 30 chances, made 14 tackles and completed 16 take-ons, while Abdoulaye Doucoure has had 11 shots on target, 15 chances created, 17 tackles and 12 completed take-ons.

His form has ended a tough period for Isco, and the midfielder is now eyeing a return to international football.

“Hopefully I can return to the national team, it’s the greatest achievement for a footballer,” Isco told reporters.

“I’m happy with the work I do, but the national team depends on what I do on the pitch. If that reward comes one day, I’ll be happy.”

Isco hasn’t played for Spain since 2019, starting in two Euro 2020 qualifiers against Faroe Islands and Sweden in June of that year, recording two assists against the former. Despite featuring in qualifying, Isco was left out of the squad for the tournament in 2021, suffering as a result of his lack of significant game time for Real Madrid.