Santiago Solari has played down speculation regarding his decision to omit Isco from Real Madrid’s starting lineup in their Copa del Rey round of 16 first-leg win over Leganés.
Los Blancos ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over the struggling La Liga side through goals from Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vázquez and Vinícius Júnior.
The strained relationship between Isco and Solari: Five key things to know…
- Solari, a former Real Madrid player and youth team coach, was named Los Blancos manager in November 2018 following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui.
- Since taking charge he’s used Isco in all but one of his 12 matches though has fielded him just twice from the start.
- Tension between the pair boiled over when Isco was left out altogether in Real’s Champions League away trip to AS Roma last December.
- It led to reports of Isco potentially leaving Madrid, with the Spaniard liking a defamatory tweet about Solari.
- And, despite leaving Isco out again against Leganes, Solari has insisted it was purely coincidental.
However, it was another start from the bench for Isco, who has struggled for playing time since Solari assumed first-team duties. This latest episode, though, was seen by some as retribution for Isco liking a tweet critical of his boss.
Prior to kick-off, eagle-eyed observers noticed Isco liked a tweet which translated read: “He [Solari] has picked Dani Ceballos and a Casemiro who’s in bad shape, and even though he retired 20 years ago he’d pick himself before Francisco Alarcon Isco.”
Solari would counter this by suggesting Isco was unlucky.
“Well, today we played a very good game,” he told reporters after being asked why Isco did not start.
“There are 24 players to select from and only 11 can start, my duty is to pick these players and it is not always the most thankful job.
“Will Isco play against Real Betis? I will not give you the weekend line-up and I myself do not know yet, as there are still many days left before then.
“We can play 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2, but it is more difficult because Karim Benzema is our only striker, it is not always easy for a coach!”
Isco, who broke through at Málaga, joined Real in 2013 amid heavy interest for his signature including from Barcelona.
Since moving north he’s gone on to play in no fewer than 261 matches under five different managers (Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez, Zinedine Zidane, Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari).
Across those appearances, Isco has registered 46 goals and created a further 52 for his teammates. However throughout his time in Madrid, the 36-time capped Spanish international hasn’t always been one of the first names on the team sheet.
Although he’s content with remaining at the 13-time European champions there has been no shortage of interest in acquiring his signature. One club reportedly keen is Juventus where Isco’s former Real teammate Cristiano Ronaldo now calls home.