Isco is Solari's latest headache

Real Madrid's Isco (front) and Gareth Bale during training in Rome ahead of their midweek Champions League game against Roma. The media reported a falling-out between Isco, who was not even named on the bench, and coach Santiago Solari.
Real Madrid's Isco (front) and Gareth Bale during training in Rome ahead of their midweek Champions League game against Roma. The media reported a falling-out between Isco, who was not even named on the bench, and coach Santiago Solari.PHOTO: REUTERS

New coach under pressure from fans, media after sidelining Spain midfielder for 6 games

MADRID • Although Santiago Solari called Isco's omission in midweek a "sporting decision, nothing else", his comments have only served to fan the flames of what has become the newly appointed manager's latest problem at Real Madrid.

His future has been on the agenda ahead of Real's LaLiga meeting with Valencia, who are owned by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, at the Santiago Bernabeu today.

Local media have reported about a falling-out between Isco, 26, who was not even named on the bench in their Champions League tie at Roma, and his coach.

Isco has not been named in the starting line-up for the six matches Solari has been in charge.

The situation surrounding the Spain midfielder, who has previously been linked with moves to Manchester City, Barcelona and a host of Europe's top clubs, has caused consternation among the club's fans.

While it remains to be seen whether or not he is involved for Solari's seventh game when Valencia visit, the Argentinian manager insisted that the press are blowing the matter out of proportion.

"Starting or being on the bench is a problem that doesn't exist. We're here to give our all, 100 per cent and to get picked. I've always seen it like that and I'm not giving it (the rumours) more importance. We've a squad of 24 players," he said.

"There are no guaranteed starters or substitutes in football. It is up to players to make the coaches pick them."

Marcelo also backed his boss, telling Real Madrid TV: "We are all adults. You have to work. I do not say that Isco does not work, but he must work, and see why he is failing to play and improve."

While Isco agreed a contract extension until 2022 last September, with a reported €700 million (S$1.1 billion) release clause, he has not always enjoyed the confidence of Real managers down the years - from Carlo Ancelotti to Rafael Benitez and Zinedine Zidane.

When he left Malaga for €23 million in 2013, the sense was Real were augmenting their squad with the younger equivalent of Barcelona greats Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

But doubts have always lingered over his tactical discipline despite his technical ability, swagger on the ball and eye for a pass.

Questions will be asked again if he is left out of the game with Valencia, with the European champions aiming to prove their 3-0 loss to Eibar last weekend was just a blip in an otherwise impressive revival with five wins under Solari.

Only six points separate the top seven in LaLiga, and Real, in sixth, will be hoping to put more distance between them and 11th-placed Valencia, who are three points behind and coming off a 1-0 loss at Juventus on Tuesday, which saw them drop into the Europa League.

With their fine record against Valencia, who have not beaten Real away since 2008, Solari's men are confident as they seek to be "first in every competition" this term.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2018, with the headline 'Isco is Solari's latest headache'. Print Edition | Subscribe