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Zidane: Isco knows I love him

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane claims he prizes Isco highly but would not confirm he has asked the attacking midfielder to stay at Santiago Bernabeu.

After creating both goals in a 2-0 LaLiga win at home to Espanyol on Saturday, the Spain international stated his preference is to remain at Madrid, while also speaking of the need for more playing time, and announced a decision on his future will be made before the end of the season.

Addressing the media ahead of a league game away to Valencia on Wednesday, Zidane did not rebuke the 24-year-old for publicly making his case.

"I think it's understandable and I have no problem with it," he said.

"You ask him and he replies to those questions. But I'm sure that he's fully focused. He's a very good footballer, I regard him highly and he's player that is part of... squad rotation.

"A player could play 25-26 games in a row and then not play. You could ask him and I'm sure he'd say he's not happy.

"I want my players to be ready for when that chance arrives. We've seen it works. I'm going to keep doing this until the end of the season. I'm not going to change."

Pressed on whether or not he had specifically asked Isco, whose deal expires in June 2018, to commit to the club, Zidane said: "Isco knows I love him, I love the way he plays. I consider him to be a great footballer. 

"I have 23 very good players at my disposal. It's tough. The players understand that. When you drop a player, somebody else takes his place. It's nothing personal. I believe I have a good squad. All of my players can come in and do a good job."

The future of Pepe, out of contract in June, is also under scrutiny, but Zidane insisted his focus remains on the veteran defender's performances.

"That's what I'm interested in, what I want," he said.

"As for the contract, it has nothing to do with me. I have faith in Pepe. There will be times when he won't play. That won't change."