Marco Asensio arrived at Real Madrid from RCD Mallorca for a respectable fee of €3.9 million back in November 2014. Considering Los Blancos’ tradition of spending astronomical amounts to form their star-studded squad, Asensio has defied club tradition and proved a bargain in the modern financial climate.
Asensio’s move went under the radar, as the promising Spanish youth product announced his switch to the club just over three years ago. At 18-years-old, he was immediately sent back on-loan to RCD Mallorca for the remainder of the 2014/15 season, and was still deemed surplus to requirements in the following season, which led to another loan move to Espanyol.
He’d previously been scouted by Real Madrid and their most despised rivals FC Barcelona before making his senior debut for RCD Mallorca in the second tier of Spanish football at just 17-years-old. Asensio wasn’t renowned for his clinical edge in the final third, scoring eleven goals in 83 appearances for RCD Mallorca and Espanyol combined.
Real Madrid were the club he supported during his childhood and Los Blancos had invited him to fulfil his life dream of playing at the Santiago Bernabeu. Zinedine Zidane finally gave him his long-awaited competitive debut in the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla in August 2016. Asensio had remained grounded during the early stages of his career, by plying his trade at Espanyol and being awarded the Golden Player award in Spain’s Under-19 European Championship triumph.
His bow for the Spanish National Team would coincide with his emergence at Real Madrid and he made his international debut against Bosnia & Herzegovina on 29 May 2016 to cap off a scintillating year. Asensio’s confidence showed little signs of wavering, as he scored his first goal in a comprehensive win against Real Sociedad in late August.
The Spanish international continued his rise and began to make a positive impact in the UEFA Champions League. Overall, Asensio ended the 2016/17 campaign with six goals and three assists in all competitions, as they went onto win their first Spanish La Liga title since 2012 and second successive UEFA Champions League.
The highlight was obviously his late strike in the UEFA Champions League final, as he consolidated their dominance with the final strike in a 4-1 win over Italian Serie A champions Juventus. It was a fairy tale debut season for Asensio, but could he remain grounded and continue his success into the next season?
Asensio’s Second Season Jitters
Zidane immediately secured the future of Asensio by rewarding him with a six-year contract at the end of the 2016/17 campaign. However, he’s found it difficult replicating his debut season heroics in the white strip of Real Madrid this season.
He’s showed glimpses of his qualities, most notably in Real’s 2-2 draw over Valencia, in which he scored both goals, and a 3-0 win over Las Palmas in November. However, he’s clearly suffered in the limelight and his performances have been less than satisfactory, and ultimately led to a reduction in playing time.
His finishing is an aspect of his game which requires significant improvement. The 22-year-old has a conversion rate of 10% and he’s netted just four goals in 1,200 minutes of football in La Liga and Europe. For a player who exploded onto the scene last season, much bigger things were expected of him this term.
An argument for his case could be the lack of starts he’s received from Zidane this season, as he’s made 14 of his 25 appearances from the bench. I must also suggest that Real Madrid’s regression since the beginning of the new season has infectiously effected the form of numerous players, including Cristiano Ronaldo.
Marco Asensio, similar to Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo, has improved considerably since the turn of the year. He scored just his fourth goal of the season in a narrow win over Leganes in the Copa Del Rey and also appeared late from the bench to assist Cristiano Ronaldo’s final goal to complete his hat-trick against Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Despite his impressive cameo role, Asensio was again dropped to the bench for Wednesday’s eagerly anticipated tie against Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League. The Santiago Bernabeu produced a self-amplified masterclass to motivate the players in troubling times, but they were soon behind to a rampant Paris Saint-Germain counter-attack, which ripped open Real’s defence to invite Rabiot for a simplistic close-range finish.
Fortunately, Ronaldo converted his penalty kick on the verge of half-time to level the score at the half-time break. Paris Saint-Germain emerged from the tunnel at half-time with confidence and Real Madrid were on the back foot in the early stages of the second half. Isco was finding it difficult to create opportunities on the left hand side, despite Dani Alves regularly leaving an open invitation to exploit the space on the left channel, by brainlessly bombing forward.
Unai Emery had to react quickly and replaced the ineffective Edison Cavani with Belgian right-back Thomas Meunier. Marco Asensio was introduced with eleven minutes remaining and Meunier was set to fall victim to the magical creativity provided by him. Four minutes had passed since Asensio had entered the field and he’d already made a telling impact, by initiating the mistake from Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Areola to gift Cristiano Ronaldo with the simplest of finishes.
Then, his combination on the left channel with Marcelo created space to manoeuvre inside. Marcelo intelligently burst into the penalty area and was fed a low beautiful pass to messily divert a deflected finish past Areola with his shin. The finish wasn’t pretty but the stadium erupted into ecstasy and Asensio’s impact had changed the tide of the game.