It’s the start to a new season and we have seen a wave of emerging youth burgeoning from the white side of Spain’s capital. Real Madrid have started the season very positively racking up two wins in two games, after a very positive pre-season. During the pre-season and the two games of the new La Liga season, various players from the Los Blancos squad have shown the desire to play an integral part in the club’s campaign and bring glory to the team and also on the personal front. One such individual is Marco Asensio.
Marco Asensio has become one of the most talked about players in the world in the space of weeks. The 20-year old Majorca native has given impressive performances throughout the 2016/17 pre-season and La Liga campaign of the club so far. His performances have been hard to ignore and the club has given up on the idea of loaning him out for more game time. On a practical note, given that Asensio’s loan move elsewhere could have further developed the midfielder’s characteristics, his stay at Real Madrid means that he is hungry for success and is not worried about the competition for places. It also strengthens the Real Madrid squad with the threat of the transfer ban looming around the horizon.
Born to a Spanish father and a Dutch mother, there were campaigns in his maternal country for him to be selected into the Oranje squad. This would mean he would have to change his allegiance as he has played at junior levels for Spain. However, he chose to stick to his roots and become a success story there.
Asensio started his career in his homeland in Mallorca, making his debut with the B team in the Tercera division in the 2013/14 season, in a 1-3 away loss against Recreativo de Huelva. A string of impressive showings and he was promoted to the first team by then coach Jose Luis Otra. He would continue to make progress with the team before being scouted by both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Given that he was a Barcelona fan, people thought it was an easy choice for him, but to the surprise of many, he chose to go to Real Madrid for a sum of €4m. He was immediately sent back on loan and featured more prominently for Mallorca in the 2014/15 season. In the 2015/16, Madrid loaned him out again, but this time to a top tier club – Espanyol.
Move To Espanyol And Rise To Prominence
The move to Espanyol seemingly unearthed all the talent he possessed. Asensio was a constant feature in the team, preferred by both Sergio Gonzalez and later by Romanian coach Contantin Galca. He mainly featured as the central playmaker of the team, accompanied by fellow Real Madrid loanee Burgui and star man Hernan Perez, with the attacke spearheaded by Ecuadorian striker Felipe Caicedo. The four combined to form a decent force for Los Periquitos. With Asensio being the focal point of the team, most of his talents were showcased; the spaces he could create in the midfield, building the team’s attacks and also his versatility whenever he switched places with his attacking teammates. Overall, he went on to play 36 matches for Los Pericos, scoring 4 goals and providing 12 assists. He also played a key role in helping Espanyol escape relegation, keeping them five points away from the relegation zone. It was an impressive season for a 19-year-old. He was praised for his performances by then Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who hailed him as the “greatest talent in Spain currently” and also gave him a callup for Spain’s friendlies before the Euro 2016 against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Switzerland. Asensio, along with his then club teammate Pau Lopez, made their debuts against the latter.
Return To Madrid
Asensio returned back to the Spanish capital. He was featured prominently in coach Zinedine Zidane’s pre-season campaign, making his first ever Real Madrid appearance in a 3-1 friendly loss to Paris St. Germain. He came on as a half time substitute for Jese Rodriguez, playing out wide on the left flank, cutting in and feeding passes to Mariano Diaz for the majority of the second half. He started the next match against Chelsea in what turned out to be ‘a performance to behold’. He again started on the left side in a 4-2-3-1 structure, that changed more into a 4-4-2 while on counters, accompanying Alvaro Morata and Mariano in the final third.
His rise continued when he started in all the other preseason games, against Bayern Munich, and then Reims in the Bernabeu trophy and also in the UEFA Super Cup final against Sevilla. In the Super Cup final, he started ahead of a more established figure in James Rodriguez, which raised a lot of eyebrows, but he grabbed this opportunity with both hands. He got his reward for his hard work, when he broke the deadlock with a sublime 25-yard left-footed strike which gave Sergio Rico no chance. Real went on to win the match 3-2, thanks to a leveller by Sergio Ramos in the 93rd minute and another last minute goal in extra time by Dani Carvajal, thereby giving Asensio his first piece of silverware for a senior club.
Asensio was again given the nod ahead of other stars in the La Liga. He paid off coach Zidane’s faith with another peach of a goal, a chip over Geronimo Rulli to score the second goal in the 3-0 victory against Real Sociedad. He started the next game against Celta, helping out in the first goal when his shot was parried by the keeper only for Alvaro Morata to score from the rebound. His red-hot form was rewarded with another callup for the national side, this time by new coach Julen Lopetegui. He featured as a substitute in the 8-0 victory over Liechtenstein and created the seventh goal for the side.
Possible Impact On The Squad
The installation of Marco Asensio into the first team has given a green light to the free-flowing attacking football that Real Madrid is very well known for. A player bred into that philosophy has found no difficulty in adapting to Los Blancos’ style of play. One very good quality of Asensio is his versatility. Whether he plays as a winger or as a central attacking midfielder, he manages to have the same impact on the pitch and is highly adaptable. But the problem lies in the fact that his current run of form might be halted when the currently injured stars of the team return.
Once the first team mainstays in Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema return to the squad, Asensio might be forced to see the action from the bench, thereby derailing his momentum and the progression of his career. But like they say, in every dark cloud there’s a silver lining, Asensio as a substitute option gives Zidane a valuable backup option if something goes wrong from the get go. His presence in the squad gives much needed depth to the squad’s midfield and the option of rotation in what is going to be a long, hard-fought season for the club. His willingness to play as a midfielder could make it easier for the midfield mainstays in Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to play in their preferred positions in the more important games of the season.
It will be interesting to see where Asensio’s early strides lead him to. There is natural concern about the lack of game time for the youngster when the Ronaldos and Benzemas return to the fold of the main team. The football fraternity hopes that his progress would not be halted by this challenge and he would continue on his way to become a big star in the future.