In a honest and lengthy discussion about his career so far, Real Madrid’s Isco has admitted that the blame lays at his door when it comes to playing opportunities with Los Blancos.
Now back in the Spain squad, MARCA chat with the ex-Malaga star about his Real career so far, his hopes with the national side, and what the future may hold.
I imagine you’re happy now that you’re back with La Roja?
“Yes, we all like to wear the national team jersey, I am very happy to be here and for the opportunity that the coach gives me, it shows he trusts me.”
Was it hard to miss out on Euro 2016? Did you expect to go?
“I wasn’t convinced that I would go. [Vicente Del Bosque] had virtually called his entire squad and I was still off the list, it all happened while I saw family in Malaga when we had a few days off, then it was confirmed to me on social media.”
Although not playing for Real, Lopetegui has called you up, which is a strong bet from him. He says he believes in you, what does that mean for you?
“For me it means a lot, he knows since the Under-21s that little motivates me more than playing for my country, I can contribute a lot and have a lot of confidence.”
Are you clear of your injury?
“I had a tear in the tibiofibular ligament and stopped as a precaution, because if it didn’t heal well it required surgery. It was an injury that dragged on from the first pre-season game and got worse in training, but has now subsided and I recovered well.”
Do you have more motivation under Lopetegui than with del Bosque?
“Maybe, I’ve known Lopetegui for many years, in the Under-19s, the Under-20 World Cup, then the U21 European Championship. I’ve had many dealings with Lopetegui.”
You are 24, and for one reason or another aren’t considered to be at the top of your game. Do you feel you have to work more than others?
“I don’t know, I was at the top of my game at Malaga. At Real Madrid I’ve played many games, more than people think, about 150 but I’ve never been the star man. In Madrid I know it’s very difficult because of the competition, but I won’t give up. I work everyday to demonstrate my abilities.”
In fact, the stats say that since you arrived at Madrid in 2013/14, Cristiano Ronaldo is the player who has played more games, 155 to your 154.
“I say that I’ve played a lot even without starting. What I have to do is play from the start or from the bench, always ready to help the team and give my best.”
Do you think another club what be easier to play for?
“Yes, possibly, we are talking about the best players in the world, there is much competition and a line-up that is practically non-negotiable. It is possible that another team would play me more.”
Let’s talk about the summer, did you consider an exit?
“Not really, I have two years left on my Real contract, the club said nothing and I never looked for anything to leave.”
Did you talk to Zidane in pre-season about your role in the team?
“I talked to him and knew it would be difficult to start each games, but I accepted the challenge. I want to train hard, show that I can be a starter and that’s what I will try now and for the rest of the year.”
You’re out of contract in 2018, do you want to renew?
“I don’t know, the truth is that I have not yet thought about it, nor have they asked me to renew, so I am calm. I take it day by day, which is important.”
It’s strange that Madrid haven’t spoken about it yet, virtually all players have long-term contracts or have signed on recently, with the exception of Pepe.
“Yes, it seems a little weird, but I can’t do anything. If they don’t want me to renew, I won’t go asking for it. It’s something for the club to decide, not me.”
Do you think that last season was more difficult for you? At the start, Rafa Benitez was in charge then there was no place in the starting XI in key games.
“Yes, it was complicated. At the end with Carlo Ancelotti I almost always played if not from the start but as the first change. From one season to another, that change was the most difficult but that’s football. There are ups and downs and I don’t give up, I fight to the end and want to prove that I’m fit for Madrid.”
Do you run more in matches now?
“Yes, the demand’s higher and I feel sick after every game, sometimes for the better and sometimes it’s worse. When you’re more tired, running more yards, you just don’t have that focus in attack.”
Is that what happened against Eibar?
“Possibly, coming from almost two months without playing, it was after two games when the coach hadn’t used me so it was hard, knowing you’re training well and not getting the opportunities.”
“It’s complicated, but it’s my fault.”
Why do you say it’s your fault?
“In the end, if I’m not the star man with Ancelotti, Benitez or Zidane, I will not be foolish to look for problems where there are none. In the end, I’m responsible and that’s where I must improve.”