How Real Madrid's Marco Asensio overcame the death of his mother to become Los Blancos and Spain's brightest prospect

As he stood at the podium during his Real Madrid unveiling, Marco Asensio took a moment to compose himself. The tears forming were not just because of what he had achieved by moving to Los Blancos, a club he had adored, at the tender age of 20, but also because one person could not be there — his mother Maria. 

"It's an emotional day," he said. "I have dreamed of this since I was young. I would like to thank my family, my father and my brother, and my mother, who I know is always supporting me from above."

Asensio’s mother passed away from cancer when the midfielder was 15, and it’s why he casts his eyes skyward when he finds the net.  “We were a very close family and my dad, my brother and I were left alone to carry on,” he said. “We really supported each other, helped each other out, and we're still very close. I always dedicate my goals to her”.

Stood next to Asensio that day was Florentino Perez. The Real Madrid chief remembered Asensio’s mother from a brief but memorable meeting when his new signing was just eight years old. "Your parents met me 12 years ago in Mallorca and they told me: 'president, this is my son Marco and one day he will play for Real Madrid'," Perez told the media. 

Asensio knew though that hard work had just begun. His precocious talent stood out at Real Mallorca, where playing in the Tercera División at 16 he handled the bruising and battling encounters with seasoned veterans. A winger at first, a move centrally by coach Valeri Karpin was the catalyst for greater success with Mallorca. 

His first full season with the Real Madrid first team would be demanding though. He had already undergone two loan spells, (one back to Mallorca and another with Espanyol) but this was a different proposition. Any fears about Asensio adapting were misplaced though. The 21-year-old’s character is a perfect blend of confidence and humility, something that will serve him well this season. “I don’t get nervous on the football field. I’ve been playing the game all my life,” he said.

By the end of the 2016-2017 season he had made a glittering impression. Netting the fourth goal in the Champions League final against Juventus was just one of his many achievements, with Zinedine Zidane trusting him in the latter stages of the season, especially away from home. Against Leganes at Estadio Butarque, he produced a brilliant assist for James Rodriguez by first intercepting a pass and then driving some 40 yards, before calmly squaring it across the box for the Colombian to tap home. 

That game highlighted his quick feet and intelligent play, leading the words of Vicente del Bosque to once again ring true. “He's a footballer who is a pleasure to watch play. He has great quality, and a great product of Mallorca,” Del Bosque said.

It was not just league games that he helped Real Madrid win last season. A Champions League quarter final meeting with Bayern Munich could easily intimidate a young player, but not Asensio. In the first leg he was a 59th minute substitute for Gareth Bale, and went on to create the game-winning goal for Cristiano Ronaldo — a devilish cross in behind the Bayern backline. 

Less than a week later, during the second leg, he netted the final goal in a 4-2 win against the German giants to secure his side’s place in the semi-final. Zidane’s faith in him had been rewarded, with Asensio’s appreciation for his coach emanating from his childhood. “Zidane was my idol when I was younger,” he said. Zidane likely appreciates Asensio’s grace and elegance on the ball. As he showed at the U21 championships this summer, he can glide forward and cut through teams with ease.

His potential with Real Madrid is even more amazing when you consider how little he cost. The gargantuan fees of this summer seem even more egregious when stacked next to the €3.9million Los Blancos paid to Mallorca. His value now could arguably be considered 10 times that — not that Madrid are looking to sell the man that took his first name from the Dutch legend Marco van Basten. 

Instead, next season promises to be an important one for Asensio. Talk of a potential transfer to England has surfaced but seems highly unlikely. Instead, the departure of James to Bayern leaves a potential space for him to fill next season, and if the last 12 months are any gauge of his future, it seems Asensio will only continue to grow — emerging from the difficulty to shine brightly at the Bernabéu.