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Ivan Helguera takes aim at Isco

Former Real Madrid defender Ivan Helguera has taken aim at Isco and believes the midfielder's presence on the pitch is hurting the Santiago Bernabeu side.

The 23-year-old has become a crowd favourite since joining Madrid from Malaga in 2013 and has been a key figure ever since Zinedine Zidane replaced Rafael Benitez as head coach.

Helguera is not impressed with Isco, though, and feels Madrid cannot afford to play the Spain international due to his inefficiency and tendency to showboat.

"If Real had [Claude] Makelele and [Fernando] Redondo, they could get by just fine playing Cristiano [Ronaldo], [Karim] Benzema, James [Rodriguez] and Isco," Helguera told El Pais.

"There are specialists who can boss the middle of the park for you, but [Toni] Kroos and [Luka] Modric aren't like that. They need someone else in there. That even goes for bringing the ball out. If Modric and Kroos are marked, who's going to start moves off?

"James offers more goal threat and incisive passing than Isco. Isco doesn't set up goals, he doesn't score them, he doesn't head the ball and he doesn't win possession.

"He could offer a lot more, but because the Bernabeu applaud him every time he does a  trick... The same thing often used to happen with [Zinedine] Zidane. As a defender I'd see him pull off a magnificent piece of skill, but he'd be revelling in it while we were on the counter-attack and one of our players was free on the other side of the pitch.

"Sometimes you have to pass the ball quickly so the other team don't have time to get into position. That sort of thing is the problem with Isco, and Cristiano and [Gareth] Bale need quick passes. Right now no one at Real Madrid is willing to play two-touch football."

Isco has netted three goals in 26 appearances in all competitions for Madrid this season.