Isco SpainGetty Images

Why Isco is starring for Spain but struggling at Real Madrid

It was a night to remember for Isco Alarcon. The 25-year-old rounded off a near-perfect performance with a first hat-trick of his career, against Argentina no less, and left the pitch to a huge ovation from Spain's supporters at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Isco is a player who seems to transcend rivalries. Everyone loves him. A Real Madrid player who was wanted by Barcelona – and also their fans – not so long ago, he heard his name chanted on Tuesday at the home of his club's other big rivals, Atletico.

That is no mean feat, yet it is impossible not to appreciate his talents. There is, however, one big conundrum with Isco: how can he be starring for Spain but struggling somewhat at Real Madrid?

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Because there is a definite difference. Yes, he has started three of Madrid's last four league games and appeared 38 times in total, scoring seven goals this term. But he has found himself excluded in some of the important games, including the Champions League last-16 second-leg clash against Paris Saint-Germain.

At Real, a feeling persists that he sometimes slows down the team, that he is to blame for failing to replicate the fantastic form of last season. In a Spain shirt, however, he is suddenly superb again. Under Julen Lopetegui, he has scored a goal every 75 minutes. At Madrid, it is one every 327. That is quite a discrepancy.

"When you don't have that continuity with your club, games with the national team give me life," Isco said after Spain's win on Tuesday. "Here, the coach has confidence in me... maybe I haven't earned that at Madrid. Julen shows his confidence in me with minutes. At Madrid I don't have the confidence that a footballer needs."

And he added, with complete sincerity: "Maybe I'm the problem. I haven't been able to earn it. I have to keep working to earn Zidane's trust."

Lopetegui worked with Isco in Spain's Under-21 side and placed his confidence in the Malaga-born midfielder as soon as he took over the senior side in 2016. "I'm passionate about Isco," he said. He also claimed he and Andres Iniesta could co-exist "marvellously" in the same XI. And he was right.

Isco Sergio Ramos Spain ArgentinaGetty

Lopetegui made sure he was communicative and close to Isco in training ahead of Spain's two friendlies against Germany and Argentina. He knows how important the midfielder is in his team and that personal touch clearly makes a difference. Perhaps Zidane could learn something from the Basque's approach in that respect.

"I'm not unfair on him, and he's happy," Zidane said on Friday. "He wants to play more like all players, and maybe he hasn't been enjoying as central a role here, but I've always made it clear to him that he's important. Isco is a Real Madrid player, and he's going to stay here. He's a player I like."

Competition for places at Madrid is intense, of course, although the same could be said of the Spain side these days. And if Isco is talented enough to star for La Roja, surely he should be a fixture for Real too?

Already a three-time Champions League winner for Los Blancos, he has only started one of those finals – the 4-1 victory over Juventus in Cardiff last season. That, on the back of some scintillating showings in La Liga, looked like a watershed moment. A new contract was signed, his release clause set at a whopping €700 million.

So what changed? A collective winter slump for Real hardly helped, but it is more than that. For Spain, Isco is surrounded by players like Iniesta, David Silva, Sergio Busquets and more, who are just like he is. Masters of touch passing, juego de posesión. Tiki taka.

Isco Zidane Real Madrid

Madrid's style is a mixture. While there are plenty of technical players in their line-up, such as Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio, there is also a more direct approach with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Meanwhile, the switch to a more traditional 4-4-2 with wingers (Asensio and Lucas Vazquez) has seen Isco fall down the pecking order of late.

Zidane has continued to speak of Isco's importance. The sign of a top coach, however, is the ability to get all of a team's best players on the pitch at the same time, make it work and improve them in the process. And if Madrid cannot, there will be plenty of takers for Isco – Pep Guardiola and Manchester City among them.

"I don't see him to day to day for his club and I don't know what Zidane is thinking," Spain team-mate Koke said after Tuesday's win. "I love Isco. If he doesn't have continuity there, maybe he would at Atletico..."

There is little chance of that, though it does show how highly he is rated. Koke loves Isco, just like everyone else loves Isco. But perhaps it is time for Real Madrid and Zidane to love him a little more. The potential rewards are there for all to see.