This article is written by George. Check him out on Twitter @georjecb.
Marco Asensio exploded onto the scene at Real Madrid last season and since then people haven’t stopped talking about him. Many have claimed the 21-year-old is a future candidate for the Ballon d’Or, while others have said he’s the next Zinedine Zidane. Is Asensio as good as everyone has been saying, though, or is he just another over-hyped young player?
In December 2014, Real Madrid announced the signing of an unknown teenager for a fee of €3.9m. Signing from Mallorca, this teenage midfielder was known by few – but those who were in the know tipped him to be the next big thing. This player, of course, was Marco Asensio. Upon signing for Madrid, he was loaned back to Mallorca (where he remained for the rest of the 2014/15 season).
In the 2015/16 season, Asensio was loaned out once again, this time to Catalan side RCD Espanyol, where he really started to kick on. The attacking midfielder scored four goals and registered thirteen assists during his stint in Catalonia, impressing Real Madrid so much so that they decided to bring him back to the Spanish capital to play for them in the 2016/17 season.
Last season Asensio had the perfect platform to show his class - and he did exactly that. Despite having limited game time, when the Spaniard did have an opportunity he certainly took it. I don’t want to suffocate you with stats, so instead I’ll attempt to describe his play-style (which may prove to be a difficult task). Asensio hasn’t really nailed down a position in the Real Madrid squad. At times he’s played in central midfield as an attacking player who intercepts the ball and drives it forward with his incredible agility. On other occasions, though, we’ve seen him as more of a winger, working the channels and making darting runs. He’s a very adaptable and versatile player, and I think Zidane's decision to not tie him down to a position is wise.
Another key aspect of Asensio’s game is his striking ability. For a relatively small man, he has immense shot power. Not only does he possess power, though; he has the ability to chip, curl and place the ball. This can be seen in the varied collection of goals he’s already scored in his relatively short club career. One week he’ll smash one into the top corner from 30-yards out, the next he’ll dribble the ball around several defenders before chipping it over the keeper in a Lionel Messi-esque manner.
Currently speaking, Real Madrid are playing without their star-man Cristiano Ronaldo, who received a five-match ban earlier on this season following an incident involving a referee. In Cristiano’s absence, Los Blancos were looking for a player to step up to the plate and lead them through the first few games of the season. Asensio has been that player. I’m not trying to say Asensio has been a ‘leader’ in the conventional sense of the word but, in terms of his performances on the pitch, he’s led by example.
I don’t want to delve too far into the intricacies of his game because ultimately he’s only 21-years-old. It would be unfair to pick apart the aspects of his game that aren’t so strong because, like I say, he’s still young and will obviously improve. Equally, I shouldn’t overestimate his ability. He’s shown fantastic potential and he’s a really exciting player, and I personally think he’s capable of becoming one of the world’s greatest players IF he continues along the same trajectory he’s currently on. That’s a big ‘IF’, though.