The Bernabéu's new idol Marco Asensio has Basque blood. His grandmother and three uncles like in Barakaldo, and he visits them regularly. His father Gilberto was born nearby in Ugarte. The Asensio family had to emigrate to Essen, Germany and by the time they returned to Spain, Gilberto was adolescent. He joined Barakaldo CF, when then team was coached by prominent Athletic Club scout Ángel Nogales; later, Gilberto would play for two other sides in the Vizkaya region - SD Basurto and Erandio Club.
At Barakaldo, Gilberto took part in an unforgettable match in 1978 - the Trofeo Hierro final at San Mamés, which back then was used as the venue for the decisive matches at Regional and Under-19 level. It was a dream come true for Asensio's father, a lifelong Athletic fan. His passion for the Leones continued when the family moved to Mallorca, where he took up a job working in a hotel. And was there where he met a Dutch women - Igor and Marco's late mother, who both sons always dedicates their goals to. Igor, the eldest son, plays for Third Division outfit Platges de Calvià, but just like his father, is an Athletic fan and his bedroom wall is covered in posters of the Bilbaínos.
Like father, like son
Gilberto was a skillful deep-lying forward who would roam freely and even drop back to help in defence. He was almost a carbon copy of his son. Basurto keeper Piñal remembers him as “a very classy footballer, with a lot of talent and good movement; he always worte the No.10 shirt and he reminds me a lot of Marco”. His former team mates, with whom he played for two years recall a young man “with a heart of gold, quite reserved who never got into any trouble”. At the start though he struggled with the language as he had been brought up speaking German. Another ex-team mate at Erandio, Manu del Agua, described him as “a player who was very elegant on the ball”.
“If that's what they say about me, then who am I to disagree, hahaha...”, Gilberto chuckles.
Turned down by Athletic
After Marco had gone professional with Mallorca, and due to the family's tie with Athletic, his agent offered him to the Bilbaínos. Gilberto was devastated when Athletic's Technical Secretary José María Amorrortu, turned the youngster down, saying that he didn't fit in with the club's philosophy. No one knows if the word had filtered down from the president or not. It was a huge disappointment for a man who would always take his sons to watch the Athletic squad train at Lezama.
“It was a shame, I had got my hopes up but Athletic is Athletic. They have strange politics. There was also speculation about a loan when Marco signed for Madrid, the team he has supported since he was a boy”, says Gilberto today, adding that he is grateful for everything the capital side has done for his son.