Isco hits winner and wants to stay at 'best club'

Brazilian Marcelo rushing to hug Isco after the Spaniard scored one of his two goals in Real's 3-2 win. He started only because the big names were rested for the Champions League.
Brazilian Marcelo rushing to hug Isco after the Spaniard scored one of his two goals in Real's 3-2 win. He started only because the big names were rested for the Champions League.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID • Real Madrid playmaker Isco insists he wants to stay at "the best club in the world" for a long time, despite being courted by Barcelona and a host of English Premier League clubs.

The Spanish international starred by scoring twice, including a 90th-minute winner, as a much-changed Real side remained three points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a 3-2 win at Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

Later, Lionel Messi kept Barcelona's title hopes alive with two goals and an assist to see off Real Sociedad 3-2 as Spain's top two edged five-goal thrillers ahead of this weekend's El Clasico.

Isco, who joined in 2013 from Malaga, said: "I am at the best team in the world, there is no bigger team than Madrid. I feel fortunate."

The 24-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season, which has reportedly sparked the interest of Real's rivals Barcelona.

And, despite 10 goals in all competitions this season, he remains a fringe player with coach Zinedine Zidane preferring a midfield three of Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

"You know what I think of Isco, he is a player I like a lot and his place is here," said Zidane. "There are 24 players and it will always be unfair for those that don't play.

Isco was one of nine changes Zidane made to his starting line-up with the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich tomorrow in mind.

However, even without the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, Real for the umpteenth time this season found a late winner to remain on course for a first La Liga title in five years.

Isco hailed his side's DNA to fight till the end, but accepted the European champions made life difficult for themselves against relegation-threatened Sporting.

"We didn't control the game like we should have," he said. "They went ahead on two occasions, but this is the spirit of Real Madrid and we have shown it once more.

"It is in the DNA of this shirt and this badge, we have shown it so many times and again today. Until the referee blows the full-time whistle it is not over."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2017, with the headline 'Isco hits winner and wants to stay at 'best club''. Print Edition | Subscribe