MADRID (AP) Francisco “Isco” Alarcón and Real Madrid are back on good terms.
After enduring one of his worst seasons in Madrid, Isco again has become an important piece in coach Zinedine Zidane’s team.
Isco has started in two consecutive matches for the first time this season, playing well and showing the type of confidence he used to have when he helped Madrid win its recent Champions League titles.
“We never lost sight of Isco,” Zidane said after Madrid’s 2-1 win over Alavés in the Spanish league on Saturday. “He is an important player, he has always shown that. He has personality. He always shows up in difficult moments and he has done that remarkably well again.”
Isco set up Dani Carvajal’s winner against Alavés after his header was saved by the goalkeeper and ricocheted off the post back toward the area for his teammate’s easy goal. The victory left Real Madrid tied with Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league standings.
“Isco played a good match, with and without the ball,” Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos said. “He worked hard.”
Isco had also started in the team’s 2-2 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage of the Champions League on Tuesday, playing up front along with Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard. He was loudly cheered by the crowd at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium when he was replaced by Rodrygo late in the match.
In the previous 17 matches this season, Isco had started in only two, coming off the bench six other times. The 27-year-old forward was slowed by a muscle injury early in the season but had few chances even after regaining his fitness.
Isco had been playing an important role for Madrid until losing space under coach Santiago Solari last season, when the club endured one of its worst crises in decades. He was sidelined through long periods, prompting widespread rumors about his possible departure from the club.
But Zidane wasn’t ready to give up on him just yet. Isco played in all three Champions League finals won by the club under Zidane, starting in two of them. He also played in the 2013-14 final won by the team, coming off the bench.
Isco’s rebirth with Madrid should also help him regain a spot in the national team, where he used to have a regular place until his club struggles began.