Real Sociedad have not won the league title in 40 years, but any talk that this could change this season will not be circulated at the Basque club’s Zupeta training base. At least not yet.
La Liga is second in the Spanish Open wide open after 14 matches and has not lost since the first day of the season against Barcelona. They flirted with the lead, but the goalless draw against Valencia allowed Real Madrid to take first place. For now.
Alexandre Isaacs is the exciting striker who leads San Sebastian’s attacking line – while doing his best to keep La Real’s fans on the ground.
“I don’t see it as a title fight because for me it’s way too advanced,” Isaacs says. The title fight will begin in April.
“First place now doesn’t mean anything. The only thing that makes us happy is just winning matches. It’s fun – it’s not fun to be number one if you don’t end up there.”
Real missed out on qualifying for the Champions League last season but are well placed to reach the knockout stage of the Europa League and face Group B leaders Monaco on Thursday.
The club’s improvement in recent seasons has coincided with Isaac’s growing influence on the team.
He scored nine goals in his first season in La Liga, as Real Sociedad finished sixth in the 2019-20 season and scored 17 goals last season to finish fifth in the club, while also winning the King’s Cup final against Basque neighbors Athletic Bilbao.
This season, the striker, who suffered a hamstring injury in September, has not been on the losing side in any of the 14 matches he has played, scoring five goals in all competitions.
“I had two very good years, not only on the field but also off the field,” he says. “I feel very good in this city and in this country and I am very happy to be here.”
The 22-year-old has been promoting big things since breaking into AIK at the age of 16, inevitably drawing comparisons to his legendary compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Isak sees himself as a different player than the Sweden icon, but they talk a lot about positioning and movement while on international duty.
The move to Borussia Dortmund did not work out but Isak realizes his potential at Real Arena, somewhere he feels at home.
“It’s a combination of being in a country where football fits my qualities and being in a club that really believes in me and bought me with the intention of making me a special player,” he adds.
“Spanish football benefits me more because I am a player who likes to touch the ball and integrate with my teammates. In Spain there is more playing, I wouldn’t say tiki-taka, but more playing with the ball and it is also more technical.”
La Real continues to draw on the production of talented youngsters at the club’s famous Zubieta academy, and these local stars have completed clever acquisitions – one is Isak, the other is former Manchester City playmaker David Silva.
The 35-year-old, who joined on a free transfer last year, has made a regular appearance this season and is someone Isaac is keen to learn from.
“I wouldn’t say he surprised me because I think we all know the level he has and what he can bring to the team,” he explains.
“It’s really nice to see the way he works and how professional he is with the team. He’s very humble, so we can all learn a lot from a player like this.”
Norway striker Alexander Sorloth has been brought on loan from RB Leipzig to help ease the burden on Isak and another says the team has benefited from Silva’s presence.
“He sets an example,” says Sorloth. “In his work and in his games you can see that he is very calm on the ball all the time, it feels like he has all the time in the world, especially in tight places.
“For me, it was really nice to see his work ethic – he still looks hungry.”
Sorloth was also influenced by Real Madrid’s head coach, Emanuel Algoassel.
“He’s really good at keeping us grounded, and he doesn’t want to look too far ahead,” he says. “His intensity on the training ground is really good. It affects us also in matches – it always keeps us alert.”
Now the former Crystal Palace striker wants the club to use his King’s Cup win as a platform to build on and achieve more success, possibly his first title since 1981-82.
He adds: “We’ve seen other teams when they win the title, the whole team and the whole club see that it’s possible, it adds motivation to the club and hunger.”
“The club is getting better, more motivated, getting better players, so it can be the start of something. It’s important not to look too far ahead but everyone has noticed that. [La Liga] It is more open.”