Why Marco Asensio could be the next Ballon d’Or winner for Real Madrid

For a player that only scored four goals in his debut campaign at Real Madrid an awful lot has already been written about Marco Asensio, but with good reason.

Just 21 years of age and secured from Real Mallorca for a measly €3.9m, the Balearic Islander has the footballing world at his feet.

Oddly enough, his capture came about thanks to a call from Los Blancos president, Florentino Perez, to Rafael Nadal.

The tennis legend was asked to get in touch with his uncle, Miguel Angel Nadal, a former Barcelona stalwart but at the time (November 2014), Mallorca’s sporting director.

Desperate for funds, the club agreed to a deal for one of the finest players to come out of their academy in years. A six-year contract was signed although Asensio stayed put in Mallorca until the end of the campaign.

He spent the entire 2015/16 pre-season with Real Madrid but was loaned out to Espanyol for the campaign in order to give him the minutes on the pitch his obvious talent deserved. The Periquitos gleefully accepted the gift and Asensio continued to shine.

No matter the test, the youngster was always up to it and, moreover, there was no fuss about his play, just understated brilliance and diligence.

Though he wasn’t exactly under the radar at Barcelona’s city rivals, column inches weren’t being devoted to him in quite the way they were after his stunning introduction to life at Real Madrid.

Thrown into the Spanish Super Cup game against Sevilla on August 9, 2016, in Trondheim, Asensio’s opener was so good that even the Andalusian supporters were on their feet applauding. Receiving a pass from 25 yards out, he needed just one touch to set himself before unleashing a rocket into the corner that keeper Sergio Rico seemingly had covered.

For the remainder of the match, which went the distance, his was a composed and efficient performance which had the football family feverishly searching for his credentials. Where had this insanely talented individual been holed up and how on earth had Madrid managed to seal his transfer for less than €4m?!

Zinedine Zidane should take the plaudits for the way in which he integrated the player across the 2016/17 season, giving him just enough minutes to keep him happy but also to ensure that Asensio’s hunger remained.

The benefits have been obvious because whenever he’s been handed the opportunity to impress, the player has stepped up to the plate. Absolutely nothing has fazed him, including a brief eight-minute substitute appearance at the Champions League Final in Cardiff which he topped off with Real’s fourth goal against Juventus.

A goal that was their last of the season, scored by the same man that netted their first, neatly book-ending the campaign for both. 

If there were any doubters left that needed to be convinced, Asensio provided a master class against Macedonia in the U21 European Championship in mid-June.

Confident and more than happy to take the lion’s share of responsibility, his wonderful hat-trick began La Rojita’s ascension to becoming Europe’s best, something that seems assured with him in the side. Those three goals on the night merely underscored everything else that is loved about the player.

What’s interesting at this point too is that the youngster is doing everything asked of him and more, giving Zidane a potentially glorious headache when the Real players report back for pre-season training.

The Frenchman has clearly shown that no player is undroppable in his perennially rotating side, however, there are clear indicators as to why Asensio deserves a more permanent place in his starting XI.

He is a difference maker and the sort of electric talent that puts bums on seats and then routinely ensures they are out of them. It isn’t even too foolhardy to suggest that he could usurp Gareth Bale should the Welshman’s injury problems and lack of form continue.

‘Galacticos’ have been the bread and butter of Perez’s presidency but he’s always had to pay handsomely for the privilege. Furthermore, those players have been world stars at the time they made their way to the Santiago Bernabeu.

It might be stating the blindingly obvious but Marco Asensio is already well on the way to finding himself in that bracket. 

There’s an ease and composure about his play that’s intoxicating and a grounding to ensure that he’s close to the full package already.

Individual honours won’t escape him for long so take heed of the school of thought that’s already populating the dressing rooms…Spain and Real Madrid could soon have another Ballon d’Or winner in their midst.