Mauricio Isla arrived at Juventus with high hopes seemingly attached to his right hip whether he liked it or not. Forget the fact that he was just months removed from one hell of a knee injury, expectations were there based on what he has done in the past. Some of it was that he was a damn good player before his injury, the other because of price Beppe Marotta dropped for simply owning half of Isla's contract.
There were high hopes, regardless of Isla's health status.
Has he fulfilled said expectations? Of course not. It's pretty hard to make your case when you only play in 10 league games no matter who you are — let alone somebody who is trying to prove that he is back to full strength.
But that's the thing. Has Isla really gotten the chance to show that he's fully healthy and recovered from what was quite a damn serious knee injury? I think we all know the answer to that. I think Antonio Conte knows the answer to that. I think anybody who checks out Isla's stats would soon know that.
That means we will continue to ask ourselves the million-dollar question over and over again: Should Isla be with Juventus next season?
He should be. That's my fiinal answer, Regis.
Why? Because he's finally healthy. How do I know this? Because I've seen him the last two starts he's had. Small sample size, sure, but look at Isla three or months ago compared to now. For the first time in a long time Isla not only played a full 90 minutes, but was an effective player on the right wing.
But it's not a surprise despite his lack of playing time. Knee injuries take a long time to recover from. And as we saw when Fabio Quagliarella after his knee was blown into pieces two years ago, it's a long, arduous process. Results won't come overnight. It takes months and months — and both Quagliarella and Isla have only reaffirmed that.
Have Juventus given Isla time? Absolutely. Whether Isla playing so little this year is really something Conte and Marotta probably only know. Instead of doing his work in front of us all in game situations, Isla has instead trained and rehabbed in that sense, only to really get playing time on a consistent basis once the Scudetto was secured.
And maybe that was Marotta's vision all along. Now, with Isla fully healthy, the evaluation process on how much he can really contribute to the team can begin. Three games at the end of the season against mid- to bottom-half of the table teams isn't the be-all, end-all when it comes to how he'll play the rest of his Juventus career.
But it's a start — and it's been positive signs thus far.
Now, as Juve head into the summer, Isla has shown in limited playing time to close the season that he's working his way back to being the player of old. Hopefully it's not just the playing time that continues to become more regular next year, but the Udinese version of Isla that reappears on a full-time basis.