Well I’ve finally been able to unglue myself from my seat following that astounding performance from Marco Asensio in Spain’s opening match of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The Real Madrid youngster continues to prove time and time again that not only is he a natural-born finisher, but one of the world’s best, young playmakers. His remarkable hat-trick against Macedonia will not go unnoticed, and I confidently foresee him leading the Spanish Under-21 side to silverware.
Despite what you may think about an Under-21 tournament, this competition is largely important for the participants. With the 2018 FIFA World Cup just under a year away, a great deal of players are competing for a spot in what would likely be their first World Cup. Asensio is one of those hoping to travel to Russia next summer, and what a case the ex-Mallorca man is making for himself. We’re not just talking about his breathtaking performance today. If you’ve had the chance to see Asensio step on the pitch for Madrid this past season, you’ll know why I rate the young Spaniard so highly. And if you haven’t, I suggest you hop on YouTube immediately. He’s right up there with other young stars like Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé.
This past year at Madrid was Asensio’s first full season with the club. Prior to that, he was loaned out during the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons. After scoring in the 2016 UEFA Super Cup for Los Blancos, Zinedine Zidane increasingly included the 21-year-old throughout the club’s successful 2016/17 outing. Asensio would eventually appear in 23 league games and produce some extraordinary substitute appearances in the late stages of his side’s title-winning UEFA Champions League campaign.
It’s absolutely no easy task to become a regular in Madrid’s starting eleven, but if I could sit down with Mr. Zidane and plead my case for Asensio believe me I would. With only a few appearances in the center of midfield, Zidane preferred the Palma native out on the wing. Asensio’s ability to play both positions proves his versatility. It doesn’t matter where he plays, I just want Asensio on the pitch and attacking the net, because there’s so
much that he can do offensively. Before he receives the ball, he has the awareness to not only know where his teammates are but the opposition as well. Because of this, his decision-making is sublime. We witnessed that today when he had a go on net in the 16th minute of the match. Asensio received the ball and, quickly noticing he had a few yards in front of him, hit an inch-perfect, 30-yard strike into the side netting. Of course this also proves that he can pick out a shot from just about anywhere (if you don’t believe me I’ll, again, refer back to YouTube). Still, these aren’t my favorite things about his game. What I love most about Marco Asensio is his mesmerizing skill with the ball at his feet. His fantastic dribbling is only part of this. The way he glides around opponents with a burst of pace and agility is something I’ve only seen the likes of Lionel Messi do. He shrugs off opponents with ease, and at the end of his run, way more often than not, picks out a gorgeous pass or rolls the ball past the keeper himself. Like any 21-year-old, he has much to learn, but to possess talent like his is rare.
With Asensio rejecting any hint of a move to Arsenal and Liverpool, he’s stated that his goal is to become a starter at Madrid. If you ask me, his vast skill set certainly deserves a spot in the starting eleven come next season. There’s no replacing Luka Modric, Casemiro or Toni Kroos in the midfield. That’s a near impossible task. Whether or not
Cristiano Ronaldo remains at Real Madrid shouldn’t determine Asensio’s spot in the side. You’ll think I’m crazy, but here I go: Asensio over Gareth Bale on the wing. I wholeheartedly trust in the ability of the young Spaniard to create a number of chances and score goals with that wonderful left foot of his. And let’s face the truth: it’s starting to look like the rise of Asensio and the fall of Bale at Madrid. If Ronaldo does leave like he says (I’m still not fully buying it), Asensio will have a concrete starting position on the wing. That leaves Bale and Isco to vie for that final spot.
If scoring in the Champions League final wasn’t enough to convince Zidane, leading his Under-21 side to European Championship glory could, and should, do the trick.