Multiple media sources in recent days have reported that Everton have been linked with Isco. This could well be one of those things where a manager just happens to be linked with every former player that needs a new club, but the Spaniard definitely needs a new home, and Everton really are on the short list of places who could afford his wages. So, how will he fit positionally and tactically? We’ll sift through some of Isco’s history to find out.
Back in 2013-2014, the very first time Carlo and Isco worked together, Isco played 32 league matches, 9 Copa Del Rey matches, and 12 Champions League matches. Real Madrid won a double, and Carlo didn’t like to rotate, so Isco and his then young and energetic legs played everywhere. Eight of those appearances were as a winger, four of them were as a box to box midfielder, he even played four times as a striker, as weird as that sounds now. The vast bulk of his appearances were in an attacking midfield role, which in the current Everton setup would have him playing above Allan and Doucoure.
In 2015, James Rodriguez was the big money buy for Real Madrid, midfield shield/deep lying playmaker Xabi Alonso left, and Isco moved primarily out to a sort of nominal left midfielder/winger, while also spending time as a CM. When Isco went left, Cristiano Ronaldo went central in a 442, and James’ time that season was pretty equally split between the two wide attacking positions and in an AM role- being on the right usually when Isco was on the left. To be honest, this Real Madrid team was probably better than the team that won the double the year before, but major injuries at the wrong time of the year sunk their campaign.
Of course, at this point 2015 was a long time ago. Isco is now 28 years old and his game, which has never been built on speed, has spent less and less time out wide as the years have gone on. If you’re looking for him to sit out wide to the left and provide any sort of real width, I think you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re looking for a player to come in and contribute defensively, I think you’ll be double disappointed. We’re talking about a player who is significantly less active defensively than Gylfi Sigurdsson or Andre Gomes or even Bernard in terms of pressing the ball (though it’s worth noting that Everton as a team presses about 33 times more per match than Real Madrid does).
Ultimately, I think Isco brings to the table things Everton doesn’t necessarily need. When Richarlison is out, his two-way impact is not something that Isco will be able to replicate because he’s not a good enough defender. When James is out, Isco is a creative force but he is a different style creator than James, dribbling more and drifting across the field much more as well, so the system would still find itself changing.
Would he add quality and depth? Certainly. But in my opinion, fielding Isco and James together (especially when Richarlison is out) is going to create a situation where we are not really able to win the ball back as much as we are going to need to do so. I personally think Isco’s ideal landing spot would be a team where he can be the sort of focal point that James is here at Everton, not a club that already has a focal point and really just needs depth.