When Manchester United signed Paul Pogba last summer, some sections of Real Madrid’s support were left disappointed that they were to miss out on another galáctico; the wiser of their followers knew, however, that they already had a future superstar in their ranks.
Florentino Pérez and Zinedine Zidane knew, too. After Marco Asensio had dazzled on loan at Espanyol in the season previous, there was no way they were going to let the youngster spend another year outside of the capital.
There was undoubtedly a flurry of offers for the midfielder; his breakthrough La Liga season included four Man of the Match awards, four goals, ten assists, and a senior debut at international level.
Many would have been tempted to let him spend another year playing lower down the league. Bringing a creative attacking-midfielder into a side that often leaves stars such as Isco and James rotting on the bench would obviously be a tricky manoeuvre, but those in control at the Bernabeu were determined to fit the Spaniard into the fold.
Such is the 21-year-old’s talent, that has happened more smoothly than even his biggest fans might have predicted.
If he looks thrilled, it is easy to understand. This is not only because he’s flourishing in one of the world’s biggest clubs, but because representing Madrid is something Asensio has always dreamed of.
Many players claim to be lifelong fans when joining a club, often elaborating on their love with tales of how they always knew they’d end up wearing the side’s shirt one day. There aren’t many, though, who joked with the chairman at the age of eight about doing so. That’s what happened to Asensio, when he approached Florentino Pérez to ask for an autograph as a kid in Mallorca.
Inevitably, given his immoderate talents, the youngster is gradually cementing a place in the first-team. Running the show against Leganés in the league recently before dazzling when coming on during the Champions League victory over Bayern Munich certainly won’t harm his chances of a more influential role.
There is little question of what his manager thinks, either. ‘The Mister’, a curious term players in Spanish football often use when referring to coaches, recently remarked in training:
“I haven’t seen a left foot like yours since Messi”
From a man who isn’t given to hyperboles, that is some compliment.
For Los Blancos, Asensio’s rise is timely. Despite his stats remaining as ridiculous as ever, Cristiano Ronaldo clearly only has a limited amount of time left at the top of his game.
Whether the Portuguese will retire with dignity or keep coming back for more like a haggard heavyweight boxer remains to be seen, but at least it seems as though the club have somebody ready to slip on the gloves of the club’s biggest hitter when the day does come.
We have to remember the many cautionary tales that have come before the Balearic islander, and consider it a possibility that he might yet falter in his quest to reach the top of football’s tree.
With each passing game, though, he climbs another branch with the ease of a much more experienced man. It seems more and more likely that Mallorca’s airport will one day be called the Marco Asensio international airport, and that there will be a horrendous statue unveiled in his honour.
— Ronaldo’s Statue (@RonaldoStatue) March 30, 2017