Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez (born 21 April 1992), commonly known as Isco (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈisko]), is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder for Real Madrid[8] and the Spain national team. He is often described as one of the best attacking midfielders in the world.[9]

He began his career at Valencia, playing mainly in its reserve team, before joining Málaga in 2011. His performances at Malaga earned him the Golden Boy award in 2012, and a €30 million move to Real Madrid in June 2013.

Isco represented Spain at various youth levels, including at the 2012 Olympics, and made his senior international debut in 2013.

Club career

Valencia

Isco was born in Benalmádena, Málaga, Andalusia. As a child he played for Atlético Benamiel, where his teammates included Charlie I'Anson, now of Granada CF.[3]

A product of Valencia CF's youth system, Isco made his debut with the first team on 11 November 2010, against UD Logroñés for the campaign's Copa del Rey, scoring two goals in a 4–1 home win.[5][12] Previously, he spent one full season with the reserves in Segunda División B, netting once in 26 games and suffering relegation.

Isco played his first La Liga match on 14 November 2010, featuring 20 minutes in a 2–0 home win against Getafe CF after coming on as a substitute for Aritz Aduriz.[13]

Málaga

In mid-July 2011, after helping Valencia's B-team return to the third level by scoring 15 goals, Isco signed a five-year contract with Málaga CF after the club activated his buy-out clause of 6 million.[14] He scored his first goal for his new team on 21 November 2011, starting in a 3–1 away win against Racing de Santander;[15] he netted again the following week in a 2–1 win against Villarreal CF,[16] and finished his first season with 32 games and five goals as the side qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in its history.

On 18 September 2012, in Málaga's first game in the Champions League group stage, Isco netted twice in a 3–0 home win over FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, also being chosen as Man of the Match.[8] On 22 December he scored the first goal in an eventual 3–2 win against Real Madrid at La Rosaleda, leading the locals to their first victory over that opponent in 29 years;[8] in December he won the Golden Boy award, beating Stephan El Shaarawy and Thibaut Courtois.[8][8]

On 28 January 2013, Isco ended speculation regarding his future by signing a new contract with Málaga – his new buyout clause was set at €35 million.[8] He scored his eleventh goal of the campaign on 13 March, netting the opener in a 2–0 home win against F.C. Porto, good enough for last-eight qualification after the 0–1 loss in Portugal.[8][8]

Real Madrid

On 17 June 2013, Isco confirmed that he had received offers from Real Madrid and former Málaga manager Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City, but stated he would only make a final decision on his future after the UEFA European Under-21 Championship final.[8] On 26 June, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez confirmed that a deal had been reached with the player and that he would be presented by the club next week, once he passed his medical;[25] the following day he signed a five-year contract, with Real Madrid paying €30 million for his services, thus becoming the first signing of newly appointed manager Carlo Ancelotti.[8]

On 18 August 2013 Isco made his official debut for the Merengues, recording an assist and scoring the winning goal in a 2–1 home win over Real Betis, the latter coming through an 85th-minute header.[9] He continued with his form by netting two goals against Athletic Bilbao on 1 September (3–1, also at the Santiago Bernabéu).[9]

In spite of continuing to score regularly when featured, Isco received limited opportunities in the first team due to the 4–3–3 formation not being suited for his style, but Ancelotti stated that it was "a temporary problem".[9] He scored 11 goals in 53 official games in his first season, including 61 minutes in the Champions League final, a 4–1 win over Atlético Madrid.[20]

Isco started the first game of the 2014–15 season against Real Sociedad, and scored the first in a 4–1 win against UD Almería on 12 December 2014.[9] He was a regular starter in the club's FIFA Club World Cup winning campaign, scoring the last in a 4–0 semi-final routing of Cruz Azul.[9] His performances over the season earned him many plaudits,[9] and he was compared to Zinedine Zidane by the French legend himself.[9]

Prior to the start of the 2015–16 season, Isco switched his shirt number from 23 to 22, which he had previously worn at Málaga.[9] On 21 November 2015, as Real lost 0–4 at home to FC Barcelona in El Clásico, he was sent off in the 84th minute for a foul on Neymar.[9] He scored twice on 2 December, as the team won 3–1 at Cádiz CF in the first leg of the last 32 of the domestic cup.[3] Isco was a part-time starter when the team won the 2015–16 UEFA Champions League.[144]

On 11 February 2017, Isco scored Real Madrid's 100th goal of the season as he attained the game-winning goal in a 3–1 away victory against Osasuna.[3]

He appeared 30 times during the 2016–17 season, as Real Madrid won La Liga title;[3][3] he also started in the Champions League final against Juventus, which Madrid won 4–1.[3]

On 8 August 2017, Isco scored a goal in the 2017 UEFA Super Cup, contributing to Real Madrid's 2–1 victory against Manchester United. His performance earned him the man of the match award.[3]

On 14 September 2017, he signed a new deal with Real Madrid until June 2022.[3]

International career

Isco appeared with Spain's U17 in 2009 FIFA World Cup, scoring three times in the process as the nation finished third. In 2011 he represented his country – together with Málaga teammate Recio – in the U-20 World Cup held in Colombia, netting one goal in an eventual quarter-final exit.

On 28 February 2012 Isco was called to the Spanish under-23s for a friendly against Egypt, but did not leave the bench.[3] On 15 May he was picked for the first time to the senior team for friendlies with Serbia and South Korea, but took no part in either match. In July, he went with the under-23 team to the Olympics in London,[3] starting all of Spain's matches as they were eliminated without scoring a goal.

On 6 February 2013 Isco made his debut with the main squad, playing the last 30 minutes in a 3–1 win over Uruguay in Doha, Qatar.[5] Also that year he appeared at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Israel, he scored in the final and finished the competition with the Bronze Boot (3 Goals) and made the team of the tournament as a key player for the eventual winners.[9][61]

Isco scored his first international goal for Spain in a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match against Belarus in Huelva on 15 November 2014, opening a 3–0 win.[5]

Style of play

Image
Isco in 2010

Isco began his career as an attacking midfielder or as a second striker: at Málaga, under Manuel Pellegrini, he often played in an attacking role in the team's 4–2–3–1 formation.[52] Following his move to Real Madrid, manager Carlo Ancelotti also played him in a deeper midfield playmaking role requiring more sacrifice and defensive duties than his natural position.[52] He has also been deployed as a winger on occasion.[5]

A quick, skilful and creative player, Isco is known for his natural ability to pick out an inch-perfect pass, dribble effortlessly through two or three challenges or drift a shot into the top corner of the goal.[54][5] His one-step-ahead reading of the game, his anticipation of space and the general directing of his side's performances are his most common traits.[54]

In 2013, Isco was credited by Marca journalist Pablo Polo as being "the most promising young player in Spanish football", comparing his strength, skill, and low centre of gravity to Sergio Agüero, and his vision and passing abilities to Zinedine Zidane.[5] Former Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas predicted in 2015 that Isco would become Spain's most important player.[5][12]

Career statistics

Club

As of 2 December 2017[12][59]
ClubSeasonLeagueCupContinentalOther1Total
AppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoals
Valencia2010–114012200072
Málaga2011–12325300000355
2012–1337900103004712
Total691430103008217
Real Madrid2013–1432890123005311
2014–153444111041536
2015–1631312110435
2016–1730104061204211
2017–18144004021205
Total141291834448221137
Career total215432255678230057

1 Includes Supercopa de España, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

International

As of 9 October 2017[59][60]
Spain
YearAppsGoals
201320
201441
201560
201651
201775
Total247

International goals

Scores and results list Spain's goal tally first.[60]
#DateVenueOpponentScoreResultCompetition
1.15 November 2014Estadio Nuevo Colombino, Huelva, Spain Belarus1–03–0UEFA Euro 2016 qualification
2.15 November 2016Wembley Stadium, London, England
Image
Isco is known for his dribbling ability.
2–22–2Friendly
3.24 March 2017El Molinón, Gijón, Spain Israel4–14–12018 FIFA World Cup qualification
4.2 September 2017Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain Italy1–03–0
5.2–0
6.5 September 2017Rheinpark Stadion, Vaduz, Liechtenstein Liechtenstein4–08–0
7.6 October 2017Estadio José Rico Pérez, Alicante, Spain Albania2–03–0

Honours

Club

Real Madrid

International

Individual