The boy from Benalmádena returns home this week as a man.
Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez to his family, Isco to the rest of us, is proving to be the X-Factor that drives Real Madrid to possibly their greatest of their many great achievements.
Even if Gareth Bale is fit to make the trip back home to Wales for the Champions League final, he is likely to be left in the shadows by the Andalusian.
At times Isco has been like the mate we’ve all had who is outstanding on a five-a-side pitch, with his dribbling and close control, but lost when you put him on a full pitch.
Back in the summer it was suggested that he was surplus to requirements in the capital and he could move away, possibly back to Malaga, if a deal could be reached to pay his wages.
Now he is proving invaluable in the quest for Real to boast being Champions of Europe and Spain at the same time for the first time since the 1950s.
We all knew he had immense talent from his days at Malaga but Zinedine Zidane took time to warm to him, or maybe to bring a direction and discipline to his game. In the absence of Bale, Isco was given a chance and boy has he taken it!
His semifinal goal ensured that Real advanced to the Champions League final - the most important of the nine he’s scored in his last twelve Liga and Champions League starts, plus eight assists; compare this to Bale who weighed in with just two goals in his last dozen appearances, also leaving his team a man short in the draw against Las Palmas by getting sent off.
Bale will be back, be certain of that. What wasn’t so certain was whether Isco’s deal would be allowed to be run down therefore allowing him to leave as a free agent in the summer of 2018.
Discussion of Eden Hazard, Philippe Coutinho and Kylian Mbappé inheriting the coveted number ten shirt at the Bernabéu has filled the papers. All are class players who would cherish the career break but the next number ten surely has to be the current number 22? Great footballer, great character. There’s little not to love!
When he scored two goals, including the last minute winner against Sporting Gijón he celebrated with sign-language to a young deaf supporter he’d met in the build-up to the game.
He reversed the tired old “Spanish waiter” gag -that Rafa Benítez has to endure back home- on Tony Adams. When the Granada manager removed his jacket and revealed a concierge-like waist coat, Isco responded by asking him for a Coca Cola.
It has taken him a while to make the establishment, but as he faces his old club Malaga on the final day, it will be his 200th game for Real Madrid. Now though he really is the “Real deal”.