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Isco has gone from unpredictable individual to terrific team player for revitalised Real

12:39 PM EST 2/9/20
Isco Sergio Ramos Real Madrid Osasuna
The attacking midfielder's time at Santiago Bernabeu appeared over as the January window approached but he has revived his career

Football is fickle. It does not take long to turn things around with a string of good performances, and Isco is proving that at Real Madrid.

The Spaniard was one of the main scapegoats after the Blancos' loss to Mallorca in October. Having been hauled off in the 66th minute, he was not given another Liga start until the end of November.

As the winter window opened, it seemed that his time at Santiago Bernabeu was up. But Isco has always been comfortable in the Spanish capital. He has never wanted to leave. 

Moreover, he knew that if he worked hard, Zinedine Zidane would give him another chance to impress.

After all, it had been during the coach's first spell in charge that he had found his best form, operating in attacking midfield behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema during Madrid's Liga and Champions League double in 2016-17.

It was under Julen Lopetegui and, particularly, Santiago Solari that Isco had fallen out of favour, while an injury at the start of this season prevented him from hitting the ground running as Zidane's second stint at the helm really got under way after the write-off that was the final few months of last season.

Since returning to full fitness, Isco has put his head down and got himself back into Zidane’s good books. The Frenchman knows he can once again rely on the Spain international, who now, more than ever before, works for the good of the team rather than trying to showcase his individual brilliance.

Isco's new, selfless mentality was certainly evident at El Sadar on Sunday, as Madrid earned a 4-1 win to move provisionally six points clear at the top of La Liga before Real Betis host Barcelona in the late kick-off.

During the opening minutes, Madrid appeared to be suffering from a hangover from their shock Copa del Rey elimination at the hands of Real Sociedad, whose 4-3 win at the Bernabeu appeared to undo all the good defensive work Sergio Ramos & Co. had accomplished in recent months.

However, Marcelo and Nacho had played against the Basques. At Osasuna, Zidane returned to the trustworthy combination of Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal at full-back.

Still, the defence still looked a little rusty early on, as Unai Garcia headed home from a corner to break the deadlock after 14 minutes.

However, the goal merely roused Real into life and the side that had bulldozed their way to the top of the table belatedly came out to play.

Gareth Bale headed narrowly over and Karim Benzema had an effort cleared off the line as Madrid moved quickly up through the gears.

It was Isco who eventually levelled the game 33 minutes in, volleying home after Bale had forced the ball into his path. It was a fine drilled finish and just reward for the playmaker’s improving performances of late.

Isco plays wiser, smarter, than he did before. Perhaps that means he does not get to dazzle as much, but he is harnessing his skills to better effect, using them at the right time, and purposefully, instead of operating as an unrestrained box of tricks.

Madrid skipper Ramos put his side ahead before the break, heading home from close range after Casemiro’s effort came his way.

Of course, Osasuna will argue Ramos should have seen red beforehand, when his studs found Ruben Garcia’s Achilles earlier in the game, so it was no surprise to see the defender then go up the other end of the field to score.

He revels playing the role of the villain. Osasuna fans were chanting "Die, Ramos! Die!" but he lives off such provocation.

Besides, it would be wrong to attribute Madrid's win to poor officiating or good fortune.

The players are all brimming with belief now, even Luka Jovic, who, after Lucas Vazquez had made it 3-1, rounded off the scoring with a surprisingly confident finish for a forward that has struggled so badly for goals since joining from Eintracht Frankfurt last summer.

It all bodes well for Real. Zidane’s new Madrid is not a collection of individuals, but a team, working together for the same goal.

And nobody embodies that better than Isco.