Spain hat trick hero Isco wants leading role at Madrid
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 30, 2018 08:38 AM
Spain's Isco Alarcon, right, celebrates after he kicks Spain's 6th goal during the international friendly soccer match between Spain and Argentina at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday March 27, 2018. Spain defeated Argentina with 6-1, Isco scored three goals. (AP Photo/Paul White)
By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — After scoring his first hat trick for Spain, Francisco "Isco" Alarcon thought the time was right to send a message to Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.
Isco wants to join Zidane's untouchable group of first-choice players and regularly perform alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and Luka Modric.
The 25-year-old midfielder said Spain coach Julen Lopetegui "gives him life".
"When a footballer doesn't feel like he has a leading role and consistent playing time with his club, the national team gives him life," Isco said after starring in Spain's 6-1 rout of Argentina in a friendly on Tuesday.
"I have the confidence of my coach here (with Spain). I still have the desire to keep working, to improve, to be a starter with my club and with the national side."
Zidane will decide whether to start Isco on Saturday when Madrid visits Las Palmas.
With Madrid trailing league leader Barcelona by 15 points, perhaps the best guide to Zidane's plans for Isco will come next week when the team visits Juventus in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Zidane won back-to-back Champions Leagues and last season's Spanish league by relying on a core group who always start when fit.
The former France great has stuck by those players despite Madrid's struggles in the Spanish league this season and an early exit from the Copa del Rey.
The best example is Karim Benzema, a player Zidane has remained loyal to despite paltry goal numbers.
There is also a second group of players the coach picks from depending on the opponent, individual form and on whether he needs a break.
Isco, despite showing for several seasons he is one of Europe's top playmakers, belongs to this latter tier.
Zidane has preferred Mateo Kovacic in two big games this season, the home "clasico" against Barcelona that ended in a 3-0 loss and a 2-1 victory at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last-16.
"At Madrid I don't have the consistent playing time that a player needs but I know the problem is mine, that I haven't been able to earn it," Isco said. "I continue to work so I can show my coach he can count on me."
Zidane's predecessors Rafa Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti also failed to use Isco as a regular starter.
Lopetegui has been tight-lipped about his plans for the World Cup in June but the signs are good for Isco.
He started both recent friendlies. Following a 1-1 draw at world champion Germany on Friday, Isco was Spain's best player against Argentina and his treble gave him 10 goals in 27 appearances for his country.
"The manager doesn't place his trust in the player, it's the player who has to place his trust in the coach," Lopetegui said.
"I hope (Isco) is happy at his club over the next two months and then can come back and be with us."