A sensational season could be about to get even better for Isco. Now pulling the strings for Spain at this UEFA European Under-21 Championship, the Málaga CF midfielder spoke to UEFA.com about his formative years, the tournament in Israel and his first taste of the UEFA Champions League with his boyhood club.
UEFA.com: Would you agree that you've needed patience in order to win games here?
Isco: It's taking us a bit of effort to close out games. The style we play has led to us creating a lot of chances and we could be finishing off matches sooner. However, the goal is eluding us a little. Having said that, the most important thing is that we've managed to break through in one way or another and are now in the semi-finals.
UEFA.com: Your rivals here appear to know you well...
Isco: The whole world knows how Spain play. The footballing philosophy preached by the senior Spanish team is one that also applies to us. Our opponents apply a very high and intensive defensive line. That's normal as they know us and realise how we like to move the ball. They want to avoid us harming their defensive line.
UEFA.com: Regarding your position on the pitch, are you centrally oriented or do you prefer to play more to the left?
I am very lucky that [coach] Julen Lopetegui gives me total freedom to move where I like. I think this is one of the keys to our team. Our attacking players aren't static, there is a lot of movement in order to create space within which to pass. This helps us cause our opponents more problems.
UEFA.com: Should we consider Spain favourites for the title?
Isco: You must earn the tag of favourites on the field. I say that, because in any given game you can perform badly and things can go well for the opposing side. I think up until now in the qualifying phase and the finals we have shown [why we can be considered favourites].
UEFA.com: These finals seem to be far more than a learning curve for the players…
Isco: The competitive nature of this tournament is incredible. There are spectacular players here who are already playing in the Champions League with their clubs. The finals are a fantastic way for us to display [our talent] and we are going to do our best to win.
UEFA.com: Have you noticed how the local fans seem to be enjoying watching Spain play?
Isco: It's really taken us back. From the moment we landed the people have treated us with wonderful affection. We've been aware of the support coming from the stands and the truth is, it helps us a lot.
UEFA.com: Can you tell us about your excellent season in the UEFA Champions League?
Isco: Málaga were brilliant in the Champions League. I don't think anyone expected us to perform as we did. We were rubbing shoulders with the best teams in Europe and it wasn't obvious that it was the first time we were playing in this great competition.
UEFA.com: Is it true you were a childhood Málaga fan?
Isco: I was a season-ticket holder for a few seasons and have always suffered along with the team. Now I am lucky to play for them. Coming from Malaga and being a fan meant it was a source of huge pride for me to make history with them in the Champions League. It was something the club never experienced before, so I was very happy to be part of it.
UEFA.com: What can you tell us about your first steps in the game with local side Atlético Benamiel?
Isco: Atlético Benamiel is a family tradition. My father played there, as did my brother and me. I began playing with the team alongside my friends and we really enjoyed it. I go back to see them play when I can.
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