Isco's embrace by Real Betis shows the power of second chances - ESPN
Isco has been transcendent in his first four official games for Real Betis, but it's the fans' love of him after a career playing for their biggest rivals that has been a sight to behold. Fran Santiago/Getty Images
Redemption is a big word and often a hugely complex subject, but it remains one of the great gifts that life, and sport, can hand you. And right now, there is a standout example who is brilliantly using LaLiga to seek this basic human need: Isco at Real Betis.
It's extremely hard to overemphasise how remarkable his achievement has been in such short order. But the magical Spaniard is well on his way to significantly altering what people associate him with, and to proving that new starts can heal, mend and rehabilitate.
Before this season began, 31-year-old Isco -- a six-time champion of Europe and three-time Spanish champion who was in UEFA's Champions League team of the season as recently as 2017 -- hadn't played competitive football for nine months. None of it was down to injury, either. He last kicked a football for a salary in November 2022 with Sevilla, in the windy, rainy, hostile far north of Spain in a Santander stadium with a maximum capacity of 1,800 fans -- a far cry from his starting place in front of 60,000-plus crowds in Champions League finals against Atltico Madrid and Juventus, or 75,000 at the Bernabeu for his last superb Real Madrid performance -- scoring against Manchester City two years before that cold, desolate last game for Sevilla.