Vicente del Bosque’s decision to leave Real Madrid midfielder Isco out of the Spanish World Cup squad has caused quite the shock in the country’s capital city, but the young midfielder’s doubts about his big money move to the Santiago Bernabeu may have been proved right.
The 22-year-old former Malaga man was the Golden Boy winner two years ago – the best young player in Europe – and looked destined to take his career however he wanted.
When Madrid came calling last summer, Isco had doubts about the big money move, concerned that reduced playing time at the nine-time European Cup winners would jeopardise his World Cup hopes.
It has all gone so pear-shaped for the youngster in just nine months. Coming off the back of the European Championship win with the Spanish Under-21 team last summer, the attacking midfielder became an instant hero at the start of the season, netting the winner in Madrid’s season opener against Real Betis, and contributing other important goals and assists.
But Gareth Bale’s return from injury saw Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti tweak his 4-4-2 formation to 4-3-3. The decision was made to accommodate Bale, Benzema and Cristiano – the BBC as they are known in Spain. There would always be victims in the tactical switch, and Isco was the main one.
Comfortable with both feet, and with an eye for goal, Isco is at his best in a free role in the centre, where he is able to pull the strings. But with such a dominant strike force, two of Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Sami Khedira are the preferred options to anchor the midfield, along with the pacey Argentine winger Angel di Maria.
Ancelotti went on record saying Isco had the ability to adapt his game similar to how Clarence Seedorf did at AC Milan, but the youngster has only been picked when others were injured, or in relatively meaningless games. When he has played, he’s looked rusty – a lack of consistent football means he’s been off the pace at times.
There were, of course, other surprise selections in the squad Diego Lopez has been overlooked, perhaps so del Bosque can avoid the questions Ancelotti faces on a weekly basis at club level about whether Iker Casillas or Lopez should start. And despite playing six games in the World Cup qualifying campaign, Alvaro Arbeloa is not included. Barcelona’s Marca Bartra was left out despite a very good season with Los Cules. But the biggest surprise was Isco. Now it’s over to del Bosque to prove he made the right call.
Will the squad be able to defend the trophy they won four years ago? It’s possible, although La Roja are only fourth favourites to win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check the 2014 World Cup Finalists Betting Odds from William Hill, and you will see that Spain are the fourth favourites with odds of 7/1. Let’s check out their performance in their first match against Netherlands on the June 13.