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Isco to Barcelona? The clubs that could sign the Real Madrid outcast with the €700m buyout clause

4:50 AM EST 12/1/18
Isco Real Madrid
The Spaniard has yet to start a game under new coach Santiago Solari and is being linked with a transfer after being left out completely against Roma

After being left out of Real Madrid’s match-day squad for their 2-0 win at Roma in the Champions League on Tuesday, Isco's future at the Santiago Bernabeu has become the main talking point in Spanish football.

The 26-year-old is one of the most exciting and talented attacking midfielders in the league and a regular for Spain, but he had not even been handed a single start by new Blancos boss Santiago Solari before being dropped completely for the midweek trip to Rome.

There were reports that the coach axed Isco for disciplinary reasons, after an alleged show of disrespect towards the Argentine coach, but Solari later insisted it was purely tactical.

"Dropping Isco was a specific decision for a specific moment," he explained. "Coaches are in place to make decisions and that's it; I am here to make decisions.

"Decisions are almost always sporting, except in exceptional cases, although there are none of those here.”

Some have suggested, including Isco’s team-mate Dani Ceballos, that Solari has simply yet to see Isco in peak physical condition.

The Andalusian needed appendicitis surgery in September and missed a month of action, returning only for Julen Lopetegui’s final match in charge, the 5-1 Clasico humiliation at Barcelona.

Although Luis Enrique handed the Madrid midfielder two starts for Spain during the recent international break, Isco has been on the bench for all three of Real's Liga outings under Solari to date.

Consequently, speculation is now rife that Isco wants out. But where would he go? And, perhaps more pertinently, could anyone afford him?


Isco’s contractual situation means Real Madrid would be in a position of great power in the event of any potential transfer. In September 2017, and after much deliberation, he signed a €6 million-a-year deal which binds him to the Blancos until 2022.

The contract also includes a prohibitive €700m (£624m/$796m) release clause which no club in the world would dream of paying, given it is more than triple the current transfer fee record of €222m (£198m/$252m), which Paris Saint-Germain paid Barcelona for Neymar last year.

However, with Solari seemingly deeming Isco surplus to requirements – for the time being at least – Madrid could be persuaded to sell the midfielder for far less, provided the Argentine coach continues to get results without the No.22.

Indeed, if Solari helps Madrid emerge from their disastrous start to the season, he is more likely to get his way when it comes to arrivals and departures in the transfer market, and Isco's exit would raise considerable funds to strengthen elsewhere.

Madrid would demand a minimum €80m (£71m/$91m) for his services, considering there is no danger of him running down his contract and he still has his best years ahead of him.

Furthermore, if one of the world’s richest sides, like Manchester City or PSG came calling, the Blancos would be in a position to increase the asking price.


Several of Europe’s elite sides have been linked with Isco, from Pep Guardiola’s Man City to Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea. Arsenal, AC Milan and Napoli have also been mentioned as potential destinations.

The Italian sides in question would not be able to pay €80m but then, Serie A teams are usually offered lower prices for players than their wealthy Premier League rivals.

The link between Isco and Manchester City has been a lengthy one, which dates back to 2013. Isco excelled under Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga and nearly reunited with the coach at the Etihad only to ultimately sign for Madrid instead.  

With his Bernabeu dream turning sour, the Manchester option may be back on the table. In May, Guardiola said that City were not going to try to sign Isco during the summer but coaches consistently say one thing in public and another in private. Recent rumours suggest Pep is, like many other top managers, watching developments at the Bernabeu with great interest.

Meanwhile, talk of Isco moving to Arsenal is driven by the fact that compatriot Unai Emery is on the look-out for a replacement for Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who is set to leave north London, either in January or on a free transfer at the end of the season.


Many moons ago, Barcelona seemed like a better destination for Isco than Madrid. The playmaker’s style would certainly fit neatly into the Catalan club’s footballing philosophy.

As former Blaugrana full-back Sergio said this week, "From Barcelona's point of view, he is a player who could interest them because he plays with touch and can link up with people well. In saying that, though, we're speaking a little bit in a joking manner."

Indeed, Isco crossing the Clasico divide seems unlikely in the extreme, as Real Madrid would not sell a player of such quality to their arch-rivals.

Guardiola’s City are a more logical option. It’s clear the coach likes having a lot of strength in depth and with David Silva turning 33 in January, Isco would make for an obvious long-term replacement.

Bernardo Silva can do a job there but has also been useful for Guardiola playing in wider positions or in a more withdrawn role to account for the absence of injury-stricken Kevin De Bruyne.

However, City's primary goal at the moment is strengthening their midfield with Ajax ace Frenkie de Jong, while Isco might also be put off by the fact that there is so much competition for places at the Etihad. He wants to be a guaranteed starter. That might be just as unlikely at City as it presently is at Real.

Looking elsewhere, Chelsea would also benefit from having such a creative talent in the midfield alongside N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.

The latter is untouchable in his regista role but Kante is having some issues adapting to his new, more advanced role in the Blues midfield.

Isco would undoubtedly add the penetration, precision and flair that Chelsea are missing in the middle of the park, and allow Kante to focus more on what he does best: winning and distributing the ball.

Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley have, of course, sparkled sporadically this season in the other midfield berth but Isco is a player of greater poise and quality.

Of course, he would also be welcomed with open arms a few miles across London, where Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ramsey are all failing to win over new Arsenal boss Emery.

All things considered, should Isco actually decide to leave Real, he will not be short on suitors. The only stumbling block may be the undoubtedly astronomical fee.