Manuel Pellegrini could be dealt his first setback as the Manchester City manager with Málaga's Isco contemplating snubbing his former coach by turning down a move to the Etihad Stadium and signing instead for Real Madrid.
The playmaker has said that following Spain's triumph at the European Under-21 Championship team against Italy in Jerusalem he would take a holiday and then decide whether to sign for Madrid or City, having revealed he faced a straight choice between the two clubs. Isco's decision could come as early as within the next 24 hours.
Yet terms have been agreed between Málaga and Madrid for him, according to reports in Spain, and if Isco does decide to sign for Madrid it would also represent a severe blow to City's new chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain.
AS, a newspaper that is particularly close to Madrid, reported that Isco would sign for Madrid in a €30m (£25.5m) five-year deal following talks between the Madrid president Florentino Pérez, the Madrid director executive José Angel Sánchez and Málaga executive Vicente Casado on Friday.
During last season's doomed title defence Roberto Mancini, Pellegrini's predecessor, consistently complained of how the failure in the preceding summer to land any of the club's five main transfer targets significantly impacted on the subsequent campaign. As well as finishing second to Manchester United in the Premier League City were unable to progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League, having finished bottom of their group without recording a single victory.
Soriano and Begiristain can point to the signing of Pellegrini, as Mancini's successor, and the arrival of Fernandinho and Jesús Navas for a combined £47m as examples of the quick, efficient work that forms part of their brief. Yet with the memory of last season's championship failure a motivating factor at the club and an experience City's Abu Dhabi-based owners do not wish repeated, the prospect of losing Isco would present a sizeable blow.
There was confidence at City that having pursued Isco for so long and given Pellegrini's relationship with him, the 21-year-old he would agree to a move to Manchester. Last week Isco said of the Chilean: "He is a great coachwho has done some impressive work at Málaga, as he did at other clubs, and I am sure things will go well for him [in England]. It's true that I know Pellegrini already, I know how he works and he has been fundamental in my career during the two years I have been at Málaga with him. It's a point in favour that we worked together and that I know how he works but it's not definitive. I am going to take a holiday [after the Euro Under-21 championships], which I need, and then decide my future." The Madrid players Alvaro Morata, Dani Carvajal and Nacho, who are all colleagues of Isco in the Spain Under-21 squad, have also urged him join them at the club. Morata said: "I have been pressuring him and I've told him that Madrid is the best club in the world."