While Marco Asensio initially joined Real Madrid back in December 2014 from Mallorca, he had to wait the best part of two years for a full crack at life at the Bernabeu.
He was immediately loaned back to hometown club Mallorca – who don’t forget were playing in the Segunda Division when Real spotted his prodigious talent – and a loan stint with Espanyol in La Liga got the 21-year-old match hardened to life as a professional footballer.
Looking back at the start of last season, a few months after winning his first full cap with Spain, Asensio had returned to Real still very much just on the cusp of action.
But that changed hugely over the space of the next nine months which ended with the attacker scoring Madrid’s fourth against Juventus in the Champions League final in Cardiff, adding to the three goals in 23 La Liga appearances (11 from the start) he netted in the club’s title-winning campaign.
It was some debut for the man of whom much is expected and a player that seems to be taking everything into his stride.
Here, we look at four key factors how Asensio can grow to more stardom next term and take his game to the next level.
REAL SHOW SOFT SPOT WITH CONTRACT OFFER
Real Madrid are not a team to get bullied by anyone in the transfer market, in fact – Los Blancos have always been known to get exactly what they want over the years – but the powers that be at the Bernabeu were worried over Asensio’s future.
Rumours had linked the talent with the Premier League, with Liverpool showing a special interest, and Real very much sided with the player’s demands last month to confirm his future lies in the Spanish capital.
For a 21-year-old to be handed a one-year contract extension (taking him through to 2023) and a pay rise (his second in the space of a year) that he is due to sign on his return from his summer of football, is an indication of how highly Real rate him.
A whopping €350m release clause, to boot, is just more evidence that they plan on making sure he becomes a Whites legend in the years to come.
Indeed, Florentino Perez reportedly described him ‘as one of a kind’ – praise of the highest order.
HE IS A BIG GAME PLAYER
It only took him eight minutes or so to leave his mark in the Champions League final, scoring Real’s fourth after coming on from the bench with a slick finish.
His presence on the pitch and confidence, look at the way he celebrated – jumping into the crowd, was a reminder that he backs himself to perform on the biggest of stages and wants much more of that limelight in the future.
While the incredible Cristiano Ronaldo is far from done, Asensio is learning from the great man and is certainly ready to step up and become one of Real’s top attackers next term.
ASENSIO HAS HUGE MARKETING POTENTIAL
The Majorcan-born star could very quickly become one of the biggest stars in Spanish football, and particularly ahead of next year’s World Cup, a big season for Real and Spain could cement his status as a global star.
Indeed, he has a marketable presence on and off the pitch to become one of the recognisable faces in European football.
Judging by his social media posts, which are very much football-centric, he seems to have a strong focus on matters on the pitch and has a good network of people around him to lead him in the right direction.
HE WILL BENEFIT FROM CHANGES TO SQUAD
The Whites have arguably the strongest squad in Europe – nevertheless – this summer will see boss Zinedine Zidane add new faces and Asensio will be key to his plans. It’s clear, from Real’s imminent incomings – Theo Hernandez and Vinicius Junior – Los Blancos are starting to create a new team with youth talent.
Asensio, who will no doubt get more and more minutes from the first kick of next season, is seen as a player – operating in that creative role behind the striker with a bit of a free license – who Real can build a team round.
His rapid progress has probably surprised the management team somewhat, and while he is inexperienced and still has a lot to learn, he is more than capable of making an attacking role his own in a front three next term.
One key area he’ll be hopeful of improving is his goals return – though early indicators from his performances with Spain in this summer’s European Under-21 Championships – show he is addressing that.