By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
He was an instant hero.
Isco's late winner in Real Madrid's first league match at home to Betis in August appeared to confirm his arrival on the biggest stage of all. Born was a new sensation for club and country, a Golden Boy set to shine in a World Cup year. But nine months later, it has all gone badly wrong.
Vicente del Bosque named his provisional list of 30 players for the World Cup on Tuesday and Isco wasn't on it. The 22-year-old misses out following a difficult season at the Santiago Bernabeu and this is exactly what he had feared.
The former Malaga midfielder initially snubbed a move to Madrid last summer because he thought he may be spending too much time on the bench. And although he was convinced otherwise by the club's coaching staff, that has been precisely what has happened.
A victim of Carlo Ancelotti's tactical tweaks and formation changes throught the season, Isco is in a difficult situation. His best position is as an attacking midfielder on the wing or behind the striker, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale block the wide roles, while Angel Di Maria has been in fantastic form this term, and Madrid rarely use a playmaker these days.
Nevertheless, his exclusion from the 30-man Spain squad remains a surprise. Always a goal threat and with wonderful technical tools, Isco is a player cut from a different cloth and a man who is useful to have around when some attacking inspiration is needed. With Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, Pedro and Santi Cazorla all below their best in 2013-14, he can consider himself unlucky to be left out - especially as Athletic Bilbao's Ander Iturraspe has made it in to the initial selection.
Meanwhile, Isco's Madrid team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa also misses out and the right-back's career at international level looks to be over, with his place for club and country now occupied by Dani Carvajal.
Madrid's first-choice goalkeeper in La Liga, Diego Lopez, will watch the World Cup at home too, despite the absence of Victor Valdes through injury, with Del Bosque no doubt keen to avoid press questions over the Galician's battle with Spain skipper Iker Casillas for the starting spot at Real.
Iker Muniain is unlucky too after a superb season at Athletic, while Thiago is in despite recent injury at Bayern Munich, and Barcelona's Marc Bartra will also be disappointed to have been left out. But Isco's exclusion is the biggest surprise and, quite possibly, the biggest mistake. Time will tell.