2017 22under22 Countdown – #20: Marco Asensio

“The greatest talent there is in Spain” – Vicente del Bosque


Date of Birth: January 21, 1996 (21 years old)
Nationality: Spanish
Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger
Club Appearances: 133 (23 goals)
International Appearances: 28 (12 goals), Spain U-21’s
EiF Ability Rating: 60

*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.*


This is the third installment of EiF’s 2017 22under22 project, a countdown in which we will reveal the top 22 players in the world who were born no earlier than 1995. We move to #20 with one of the smoothest, silkiest young midfielders in the world: Marco Asensio, Real Madrid’s rising star and a future key cog in Spain’s midfield. He moved to Madrid three years ago and has since played two seasons on loan at his ex-club Mallorca, as well as one season at Espanyol, where he impressed immensely. Now Madrid have claimed him back and he features in the squad’s rotation. He has also received some Spain national team call ups by ex-manager Vicente del Bosque and current manager Julen Lopetegui, where he has received high praise by both managers. Did I also mention he is an absolute steal in FIFA 17?

Asensio started to make noise when it was reported in 2014 that FC Barcelona and Real Madrid were in a battle for the youngster’s signature. Eventually Real Madrid announced his transfer and loan back to his childhood club Mallorca. Los Blancos paid a €3.9 million fee and Asensio signed a six-year contract, and the deal now looks like a bargain. Last season he was on loan at Espanyol and was very impressive, netting 4 goals and 12 assists. He started this season with a bang, netting some very nice pre-season goals and putting in some brilliant displays against teams such as PSG. He also scored an absolute stunner against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup, a goal that turned out to be crucial. While he has cooled off a bit, he has still featured strongly in the Copa del Rey until Real Madrid got eliminated, where he scored an incredible goal against Sevilla.


Strengths


Marco Asensio has had an excellent season, but he will hope to kick on and earn a regular starting spot next year
(Photo: Getty Images)

Asensio is blessed with great vision and intelligence, especially for such a young player. He anticipates strikers’ runs, he puts great weight on his passes, and has impeccable timing when releasing the ball, often leaving defenders exposed. He is also a very keen dribbler with a great first touch, and he is always willing to dribble past defenders. Yet, unlike many flashy dribblers, he also understands when to pass the ball to his teammates and rarely gives away possession. Additionally, Asensio is a great free kick and corner taker. At Espanyol he was in charge of all set pieces, and he had some great assists that were crucial to Espanyol’s season. At Madrid, with players such as Ronaldo, Bale, Modric and Kroos, he doesn’t feature as much on set pieces, but do not be fooled, the skill is there.


Weaknesses


AsensioMany people say Asensio is the future of Spain’s midfield
(Photo: Deporte Valenciano)

It has often been noted that Marco Asensio plays very one footed, often relying on his left foot, and while this is not necessarily a glaring issue, it is something he needs to work on. Additonally, physical attributes are not Asensio’s forte. Pundits commented that he looked fatigued at the end of Espanyol’s season, where he played 34 games, mostly starting. He is a very typical Spanish midfielder, one focused on quality and precision, but one that could physically suffer against bulkier opponents such as N’Golo Kante from Chelsea or Tiemoue Bokayoko from Monaco. Finishing is something Asensio has improved at, but he can still improve much more. He lacks conviction in front of goal, and to play for Real Madrid you have to be able to take your chances and score goals.


What does the future hold for Marco Asensio? In my opinion, he needs playing time, which is hard to get in a Real Madrid midfield that is stacked enough to have players like Isco and James Rodriguez coming off the bench. He can occasionally make a good account of himself on the wing, but he will never eclipse Ronaldo or Bale in those positions. However, we will see how Madrid shake up their line up this summer; James and Isco are both rumored to leave, and if they do next season could be Asensio’s chance to break into the Galacticos’ lineup for good. Everyone expects him to be the future of Spain’s midfield, a great eventual replacement for an aging Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas or David Silva, and he certainly has the potential of the latter two, maybe he can even reach Iniesta’s level, but I won’t be making that bold claim just yet.

Next: No. 19, metronome of the Real Betis midfield Dani Ceballos.

Previous: No. 21,  RB Leipzig’s prolific striker Timo Werner.