Why Zinedine Zidane Is The Perfect Manager To Get The Best Out Of Isco

Isco Zidane

It’s safe to say that Isco’s time working with the now departed Rafa Benitez was rather unsatisfactory. Benitez never seemed to ever trust the Spanish international midfielder and was subsequently rarely willing to accommodate him into his first eleven. Obviously, Rafa’s desire to often deploy Gareth Bale in the number 10 role didn’t help things either.

Their relationship took a real turn for the worse on November 21, however, in Real Madrid’s 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona in the clasico, where Isco received a foolish red card not long after coming off the bench.

This triggered a disastrous snowball effect, for he missed the next two games through suspension and didn’t receive any minutes in the Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Valencia games.

Moreover, Isco’s petulant actions, which saw him caught out laughing when Rayo Vallecano took a 2-1 lead vs. Madrid and when Benitez sprung him while showing dissent, certainly didn’t do him any favours.

So when Zinedine Zidane took over, Isco had only managed a measly 12 minutes (all against Villarreal in a 1-0 loss) in Madrid’s previous five matches.

The arrival of Zizou crucially offered him a fresh start and an opportunity to impress the new manager. And the Frenchman duly obliged Isco’s wish of greater involvment by handing him a start on his La Liga managerial debut vs. Deportivo La Coruna in front of 71,067 adoring fans inside the Santiago Bernabeu.

Isco emerged from the shadows to slot into what was ostensibly a left sided central midfield position, within Zidane’s 4-2-3-1 (or 4-3-3 depending on perceptions and Isco’s positioning) formation, where he put in an eminently promising showing that was littered with upside.

Isco’s role was far from a traditional interpretation of the position however, in a game where his tendency to push into advanced positions went a long way towards bridging the disconnect between the Madrid midfield and attack that had become so evident during Benitez’s tenure.

It’s been a recurring theme this season that the los Merengues frontline has tended to become extremely isolated from the midfield, with their spacing between the two compartments often far too vast, thus making life difficult to combine as effectively as they could do.

While Isco didn’t fix things completely, his intelligent movement, which saw him expertly vary where he received the ball, ensured he served as ideal link man. His movement saw him persistently able to manipulate Depor’s defence, in order to find space for himself and create it for others. Whether it was by operating smartly in between the lines, staying in true central midfield zones to combine with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in close proximity, drifting out to the left to exploit openings or even pinpointing gaps in the Depor defensive line to make bursts in behind, Isco’s masterful understanding and appreciation of space was a major highlight throughout.

Once in possession, meanwhile, Isco demonstrated just why he’s one of the best players in the world with the ball at his feet, which has led Zidane to muse: “Technically, he is like me.”

He passed the ball crisply on his way to completing 90% of his 50 attempted passes, while his incisive, razor sharp dribbling ability provided a constant source of inspiration for the home side. Parlay the above with his strength on the ball, where his low centre of gravity makes him extremely hard to outmuscle, his quick thinking and ability to make coherent decisions and it becomes clear why Zidane is so keen to utilise him in his side. Put simply, Zidane clearly sees his sublime skillset as a perfect weapon for Madrid to really animate things in the final third – in a vaguely similar way to what the Frenchman did as a player.

With this in mind, It’s easily understandable why Zizou has such adulation for Isco, for he’s a player he undoubtedly sees a bit of himself in. The feeling’s clearly mutual too, as Zidane was Isco’s idol growing up. “To see him play was a delight,” he recalls.

Fascinatingly, back in 2013, it was actually Zidane’s phone call to Isco that convinced him to join Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid for a staggering €30 million, instead of Manchester City. Zidane will be thankful he now gets the chance to manage the former Malaga magician, who already appears set to be a key component of his plans moving forward.

If there’s one man who’ll be able to get the best of Isco, it’ll be Zizou. You can expect the new boss to give him the required playing time and freedom to thrive in his system too.

All of a sudden Isco’s Real Madrid future looks a hell of a lot more promising. Liberated, working on a daily basis with his hero and once again happy, Isco now has all the ingredients to get his Real Madrid career back on the right track.

All it took was the sacking of Benitez and the installation of the legendary Zizou.