The chant of “Isco, Isco, Isco” has become a common one this season at the Estadio Benito Villamarin, where the 31-year-old has been proving that he is back to his best. He has already scored three goals and provided two assists this campaign, doing so in style. His volleyed goal in a recent victory against Osasuna was sensational, while an assist for Marc Roca in a win over Valencia was also perfect. “Isco is a magician, the cross was a delight,” Roca stated afterwards.
Isco is now looking ahead to the first El Gran Derbi of the 2023-24 season, which will be a particularly special game for him. This time last year, he was playing across the city for Sevilla. However, it didn’t work out at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan and the two parties agreed to terminate his contract during the pause for the 2022 World Cup held in Qatar, before he could even debut in this derby match.
Isco’s return after nine months out
When Isco signed with Real Betis during the summer, to link up again with his former Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini, he hadn’t played since November 13th 2022. For a player with such innate talent, that didn’t matter. When he stepped out exactly nine months later to make his competitive debut for Real Betis away at Villarreal, on August 13th 2023, Isco was so brilliant that he was named the MVP of the match, which Los Verdiblancos won 2-1. That was just the beginning, as the Spaniard already has eight MVP awards to his name this campaign.
Looking at his stats for the season as a whole, there are several that stand out. Isco ranks second in La Liga for key passes per game, with 3.0, and is only behind Iago Aspas of Celta Vigo (3.3). The Spaniard is third in the competition for expected assists, having reached a value of 3.18, meaning he is only behind the 3.27 of Girona FC’s Savio and the 3.26 of Aspas.
How working on his mental health helped Isco
Speaking about his return in a post-match interview with DAZN, Isco discussed very openly how he worked with a professional on his mental health to be able to return in the best conditions possible.
He explained: “I went through some difficult moments. In the end, I decided to stop for a while because I needed to. I needed to recycle myself mentally. I have had help, with family support and psychological support. In the end, mental health is very important, and we have to give it more awareness. Now, I am feeling good. The truth is that I’m very happy to be at a club like Real Betis. The welcome from fans, teammates and the coach has been very good and the truth is that I feel very happy.”
The best may still be to come for Isco and Real Betis. Nabil Fekir has only just returned from injury and Pellegrini has been clear that Isco was not just a placeholder until Fekir’s return. His plan is to deploy both these playmakers together, and that will provoke nightmares for defenders across La Liga. That includes the Sevilla defenders, when this Sunday’s El Gran Derbi kicks off.
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