2018 22under22 Countdown – #5: Marco Asensio


“Marco Asensio’s a difference maker. He brings real speed and cutting edge. I’m very happy with him [and his development.]” – Zinedine Zidane

Date of Birth: January 21st, 1996 (22 years old)
Nationality: Spanish
Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger
Club Appearances: 184 (32 goals, 20 assists)
International Appearances: 10
EiF Ability Rating: 66

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.

Cheeky skills, delightful long shots and an eye for lethal passes, Asensio’s got the whole lot. At just 22 years old, Asensio looks well set to light up football pitches for years to come.

Marco Asensio started making a name for himself as he rose through the ranks of RCD Mallorca. During the 13/14 campaign, Asensio made his debut for the first team, as he hoped to keep his team alive in LaLiga 2. He went on to make 20 appearances for the first team in that season, including 12 starts. He even managed to grab is first goal with a tidy finish against Tenerife. And he helped Mallorca avoid relegation that season, with a margin of 1 point separating them from the drop zone.

After a bright start to his first team career, it wasn’t long before Barcelona and Real Madrid came knocking on his door and eventually it was Madrid that got the deal done. They allowed him to stay on loan at Mallorca for the rest of the 14/15 season before joining. He’d finish the season with 6 goals, one of which was a brilliant solo goal where he won the ball deep in his own half, beat 4 defenders, and finished from outside the box. This would set a precedent for more spectacular efforts to come.

Asensio kicked off his career at RCD Mallorca (Source:Marca)

At the U-19 Euro tournament in the summer of 2015, Asensio found the perfect stage to showcase his talents. The Spaniard was pivotal in leading is team to glory, and would go on to win the Golden Ball for the tournament. His 2 goals in the final would further help him cement his name as one of the world’s brightest talents.

Marco went out on loan again for the 15/16 season (to Espanyol) , and he got himself 4 goals and 10 assists in his first season in the top flight, signaling to Madrid that he was ready. Two seasons into his Madrid career, Asensio is steadily earning himself more game time. Bale and Isco are obviously more senior players in the Madrid setup , but Asensio does his best to add to Zidane’s headaches while choosing a starting XI.

Of all Asensio’s talents, probably his best is his ability to carry the ball forward. He might not possess the speed of the likes of Dembele or Coman, but he’s still reasonably fast, and his skillfulness makes up for the slight lack of pace. The ‘transition’ from defense to attack is considered key by most managers for a winning side, and Asensio has this ability to lead his team’s transition. However, this ability to provide quick transitions should be supplemented by decisiveness on the ball. Many young wingers in present day football find themselves able at taking the ball forward, but they still lack a good output. Marco on the other hand has proven himself capable of making the right choices when in the final third on multiple occasions.

At a tender age of 22, Asensio already has quite a few memorable goals against his name. He’s incredibly good at picking out shots from range. This combined with his quick feet, ensures that he always has opposition defences on their toes. Another key talent Asensio possesses is a good footballing brain. This is showcased by his tendency to pick out the perfect final pass to setup his team mate, as well as his knack of playing quick 1-2s. His crossing ability is also noteworthy, albeit a bit inconsistent. In addition to the above mentioned, Marco Asensio has a tireless work rate, often helping his team out in defence, and dropping deep to collect the ball. This has made him very useful to Zidane, especially when he decides to play the 4-4-2.

Asensio scored this belter against Barcelona in the Supper Cup (Source: SkySports)

Although mostly deployed on the left these days, Marco has also played on the right and behind a front 2. Being predominantly left footed, Marco brings something different to his game in each position. When  on the left, he prefers to take the ball down the wings and provide to his team mates in the box. On the right, you will often find him cutting inside, possibly even trying a long shot on the odd occasion. Marco has a lot to offer as a number 10 too, where a combination of his talents helps make him extremely unpredictable for opposition defenders. However, with the number 10 position slowly dying in world football, don’t expect him to be playing in that role too often.

Asensio has one major weakness and that is his poor right foot. He is very reluctant to use it, thereby making his game a bit predictable. On the odd occasion where he does attempt to cross or take a shot with his right, he has generally  failed. Zidane has tried to solve this problem by giving him more freedom to move to central areas instead of restricting him to the wing, and to an extent, it has worked. Many high quality players have had good careers inspite of largely being one footed, but if Asensio is to truly one day establish himself as the world’s best, it is essential that he adds that little edge of diversity to his game by becoming confident on his weak foot. In the long run, Asensio will probably have to sacrifice his work ethic and work on his attacking positioning, which could make him one of the world’s most lethal attackers.

In less than a fortnight, Asensio will represent his country on the biggest stage for the first time on his career. Being the country’s best natural winger, Marco is almost certain to be a part of Lopetegui’s starting XI. A good tournament will go a long way in establishing himself as one of the world’s best.

Written by Nitish Brunth