Tottenham found their form again this weekend but Isco's display in the Madrid derby showed what might have been.
If you thought taking out a bank loan was difficult, imaging trying to negotiate a mega-money deal with Florentino Perez and Daniel Levy for the signature of a world class footballer.
Yet, no matter how much of the family fortune Spurs’ stringent owner would have to wave goodbye to, the 54-year-old honcho would surely have got his money’s worth in entertainment value if Isco was to don the white of Spurs rather than that of Madrid.
While Harry Kane’s injury-enforced absence certainly had an impact on Spurs’ succession of stalemates in recent weeks, the harsh reality is that not one of his team-mates has stepped up to the mantle. Christian Eriksen appears a shadow of his shoot-on-sight, free-kick thumping vintage, Erik Lamela and Heung Min-Son are as fitful as ever, while Newcastle United fans appear to be engaging in rousing bouts of ‘I told you so’ as Moussa Sissoko toils through the odd substitute appearance.
A suitably dramatic finale to Saturday’s London derby against West Ham at least added a fresh sheet of paper over the widening cracks but, just a few hours later, Tottenham fans were given a fresh reminder of what might have been.
It’s testament to Isco’s magisterial performance in the Madrid derby that it’s he, rather than hat-trick hero Cristiano Ronaldo, who appears to be dominating the post-game post-mortem. In truth, had Toni Kroos, Casemiro or even Karim Benzema been fit enough to start at the Vicente Calderon, Isco would not have been handed the opportunity to add to his five La Liga starts under the apparently unimpressed Zinedine Zidane.
Yet, by fortune and circumstance, he got his chance. He took it, too, emphatically so, with an immaculate display in his favoured ‘number ten’ role. Calm and composed in possession, he continuously wriggled out of Atletico’s midfield bear traps while ramping up or slowing down the tempo at will. Isco plays the game at his pace while Tottenham have appeared distinctly one-paced off late.
Completing three dribbles, and boasting a pass completion rate of 92 per cent according to WhoScored, Isco’s performance consisted of everything Spurs have lacked of late; creativity and composure, in particular. Furthermore, only Luka Modric won possession more times than Isco’s seven. Any concerns about his ability to fit into Mauricio Pochettino’s high-pressing plan thus rendered obsolete.
According to The Sun, Pochettino opened talks with Isco over a potential loan deal in January. Now, whatever chance Tottenham had of supplementing Dele Alli, Kane and co with one of the most intelligent and intuitive midfielders in the game may have passed them by.