The curious case of Mauricio Isla

Posted by Mina Rzouki

Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesMauricio Isla has publically expressed his desire to leave Juventus for Inter Milan.

Tactically intelligent and technically impressive, Mauricio Isla has never quite been able to demonstrate his ability in the Bianconeri shirt. Played in a 3-5-2 formation, he appeared undisciplined with regards to his positioning, failed to deliver the necessary assists and appeared lethargic when it came to his overall team play.

Yet there is something about the player that makes him a difficult one to surrender to another side -- especially not Inter, an arch-rival. Before jetting off for his holidays last summer, Antonio Conte specifically asked Management to get him Isla. In awe of his versatility, the former Udinese player performed magnificently for Francesco Guidolin. Played in a 3-5-2 formation, he was capable of carrying out his defensive duties well whilst still managing to contribute effectively to the attack. His perfect crosses and change of pace turned him into an asset whilst his devotion to the pressing game helped shape Udinese’s playing philosophy.

However, what really captured Conte’s attention was the manner in which he adapted so easily to different positions on the field. Whether played on the flank, inside to make up for the loss of Gokhan Inler or as a wingback, Isla simply got on with the task at hand, performing to the best of his abilities and running incessantly. With an insatiable appetite for success and excellent vision, it seemed he was the perfect man to insert into the squad to occupy the roles on the pitch that required a superior level of technical play.

His last season at Udinese resulted in a serious injury and Juventus were aware that they had to be patient and allow him time recover. Whilst he eventually recovered physically, Isla never quite recovered the essence of his brilliance.

Mentally it may well be deduced that Isla was simply not up to the challenge of playing for one of the world’s most famous sides. Yet that alone is a ridiculous deduction, for there are fewer players with a more professional attitude than the boy from Buin.

Having played for Marcelo Bielsa and a self confessed fan of the so-called tactical tyrant of modern day football, Isla relishes the idea of playing for fanatical Coaches. He wants to be pushed, he demands to end the day in exhaustion and he is intellectually capable of learning and developing his game. Without a drill sergeant getting the best out of him, Isla is one who may well wither away.

In an interview last year, Isla admitted that the very first words he heard Conte utter were the same ones he heard Bielsa once say. A coincidence perhaps but it ultimately comforted him to know that he was in the presence of a Coach who possessed that same hunger for glory.

With Inter so close to snapping up the winger, it is said Conte called off the transfer. He is simply unwilling to give up on the player just yet. Perhaps he feels he let him down in some way with regards to nurturing his talent. Asked about the Chilean, Conte asserted his happiness at having the player available, assuring journalists that whilst the winger may have had difficulties last year, he was sure next season will be great.

Conte may well be right, as Isla has already begun to demonstrate his abilities, albeit in pre-season training. The player’s sheer determination, professional attitude and perfected movements are said to have impressed the club. Despite talks of a possible transfer to Inter, Isla has continued to give his all in training.

Running after every ball, unleashing powerful shots and taking up clever positions to pressure opposing defences, Isla is looking more and more like the player Serie A once admired.

He wants to be a protagonist and he preferably wants it to be with the Old Lady. Football means more to him than anything else, a passion his mother ignited within him when she handed him a ball at the age of 5. If he cannot succeed with Juve, he has offered to lower his wages to move to Inter - a side he admitted to having rejected last season in favour of the Bianconeri. Why? Because he wants to play and he wants to succeed, money is not a priority.

If Juventus sell, they may well regret their decision. The player possesses the mentality needed within that dressing room and the capability of being one of the very best in his role. Conte cannot dedicate all his time to Isla’s progression but his faith in the player may well be rewarded if he manages to extract the very qualities that once mesmerised him.

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