Mauricio Isla is the man for all positions and the man for all seasons. Udinese’s highly sought after Chilean can seamlessly occupy a defensive or more attacking role along the right flank or left to his own devices will present a solid argument for doing two jobs in one.
Not only will the 23-year-old cover the ground from byline to byline but as he has said on many occasions if he could play football all year round he would – and it was no wonder that when he returned from the 2010 World Cup he picked up where he had left off at club level – marauding forward, then racing back to cover while in between picking out the perfect pass or two.
While compatriot Alexis Sanchez grabbed most of the headlines during Udinese’s run to fourth place in Serie A last season, which led to the dream transfer to Barcelona, Isla was certainly never in the shadows and in fact as he dug out an impressive furrow of his own towards the opposition goal.
More a provider than a finisher although he started his career as a striker, he could have followed Sanchez out of the club in the summer but coach Francesco Guidolin pleaded with the board not to unbalance the side completely by cashing on both skilful performers.
Inter have been keeping a close eye on developments up in Friuli and Isla has seen that although Udinese have been a welcome top-three contender once again this season, they will always be a selling club and the player and his advisers have made it clear that the future is not in the relative footballing backwater of Udine even if he has been provided with a perk of the best car-parking space next to captain Antonio Di Natale.
Having arrived in Italy’s north-east after catching the eye in the 2007 Under-20 World Cup alongside Sanchez, what impressed then coach Pasquale Marino when he was handed his debut was a willingness to merge into whatever role he was handed.
Udinese had Simone Pepe occupying the right side of midfield and as the more experienced Italian’s own form came to the fore so Isla slotted into the full-back role but when the formation was switched to a back-three the the South American’s true talents emerged.
As a wing-back of sorts, his pace, stamina and close control not to mention a cool head had many observers asking how a player just out of his teens could be making such headway so quickly. When Juventus came calling for a wide man everyone assumed it would be Isla heading to Turin but fortunately for Udinese they signed Pepe and the Isla-Sanchez partnership began to flourish.
As a wing-back of sorts, his pace, stamina and close control not to mention a cool head had many observers asking how a player just out of his teens could be making such headway so quickly.
Di Natale was the fortunate recipient of many a pin-point cross with the striker claiming the title of the league’s top goalscorer two years running and is once again leading the charts thanks in part to Isla’s ever-growing influence on Udinese going forward.
With Dusan Basta back from injury and handed the wing-back role, Isla has been given the freedom further up the pitch to support the front-two but Guidolin has at times played him in a more central role where opponents have found it equally difficult to shackle him.
This switch has been a real success away from home especially in the latter stages of matches when Isla has been able to get forward into dangerous positions; demonstrated by his goal at Inter where he sped into the open space behind a tiring defence to slot home.
In a side that relies of the firepower of Di Natale who has scored 14 goals so far this campaign, Isla’s return of three goals cannot be considered too modest seeing as one was as vital as the aforementioned goal at the San Siro.
Then his runs and positioning have created space for Di Natale to exploit but with the transfer window about to close those clubs interested in the all-rounder will have to move as quickly as he does around the pitch.
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