After Real Madrid’s capitulation to Eibar at the Municipal de Ipurua at the weekend - the first time Los Ameros have registered a win over the Spanish capital side in their history - manager Santiago Solari steered Real into the knockout rounds of the Champions League with a solid 2-0 away win at Roma in mid-week.
The result puts Los Merengues at the top of Group G and through, once again, to the knock-out rounds of the competition as they look to retain the trophy for the fourth consecutive time.
One star in the victory however was noticeably absent, raising doubts again about his long-term prospects at the club.
Although Spain international Isco is contracted at Real Madrid until 2022, his omission entirely from the squad, who has displayed the qualities to be considered as one of the most exciting players in his position, is extremely disconcerting.
Isco’s treatment at Real Madrid has been distinctly peculiar, far preceding Solari’s tenure.
The 26-year-old has never been a guaranteed starter but last night’s exclusion - particularly alongside the 23-year-old midfielder Marcos Llorente being provided a first Champions Start - is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows.
"These are calls that you make in a certain moment," Solari said of Isco, who, as ESPN report, ‘was fit and available for selection’.
"We are here to do that, nothing else. It was a sporting decision, nothing else. There are no starters, or substitutes, in football. It is up to all players to be at 100 percent, so the coaches pick them."
In 2017/18, though Isco made 30 La Liga appearances, nine came from the bench and a further 16 saw him removed before the 90 minutes were up. A 2013 big money signing from Malaga, Isco arrived with a stellar reputation, and though silverware has been forthcoming, it would be understandable if the midfield looks at his current position and standing within the Real Madrid set-up.
After being benched for the last three games this season, being substituted on twice to make up a cumulative total of just over an hour of play from a possible 270 minutes, it is becoming increasingly clear that Solari isn’t his biggest fan, which could lead to potentially sensational swap deal.
One player who seems Real Madrid are in fact enamoured by is the dynamic Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard, even being knocked back with a reportedly monumental bid in the summer.
Hazard has been outspoken in his desire to play at Real Madrid in the future, even as recent as this weekend saying ‘next summer it's a possibility’.
The Belgian’s 'umming and arring' has been a trademark of his character ever since his drawn-out ‘decision’ in originally coming to the Premier League in 2012; at the time, a three-way tug-of-war between the two Manchester clubs and UCL winners Chelsea.
Though adored by the Stamford Bridge faithful, currently he is perceived to have the oxymoronic conundrum of the inability to link up effectively with Alvaro Morata, but has yet to score when the forward isn’t in the side this season.
Chelsea were completely exposed at Wembley on the weekend against Tottenham Hotspur, suffering a crushing 3-1 defeat to push the Blues further out of the title race. In particular, summer signing Jorginho has a torrid game, though manager Maurizio Sarri expressed discontent with each individual member of his side.
A player of Isco’s quality would be a benefit to most sides but for a Chelsea outfit looking to run alongside the Premier League elite, not to mention finding a way back into top European competition next season, satisfying fans with a marquee signing and easing the departure of a player whose commitment has been seen to be consistently waning makes this a potentially prosperous transfer.
A move that could satisfy both players and reap dividends for both clubs a Hazard/ Isco swap deal could start to excite fans as to warm up towards the January transfer window.