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After bursting back onto the Blanco scene during Real Madrid’s preseason tour to North America following an impressive loan spell at Espanyol in 2015-16 (going on to score in the UEFA SuperCup win over Sevilla and netting a fine individual effort at Real Sociedad on LaLiga’s opening day), Marco Asensio hasn’t exactly hit the heights expected of him since then.
Asensio's February no-show
With his no-show on Saturday as Real Madrid brushed aside his former side at the Bernabéu, it means Asensio has not played a single minute in the team’s last three matches, failing to make an appearance in the white shirt for the whole month of February.
As well as for the home win over Espanyol, Zidane also left the talented 21-year old out of the victories verus Osasuna in the league and Napoli in Europe. It must be strange sensation for Asensio – who had been hotly tipped to do big things this season – because prior to February the midfielder had never missed more than one consecutive match (with only the two Club World Club encounters in Japan as an exception to that rule, immediately after which Zidane handed him a start against Sevilla).
Bale return to make minutes harder to come by
It’s for this reason that Asensio’s absence from Real Madrid side in the last three weeks grabs the attention. And with the return of Gareth Bale after three months on the sidelines, it doesn’t look like it’s about to get any easier for the starlet from Mallorca to find many more minutes.
However, Zidane, who’s kept a strict rotation policy throughout this campaign to ensure his squad remains fresh, has already shown that he has the upmost confidence in Asenesio. The French coach was his main advocate during the summer, insisting that he stay at the club rather than be re-loaned, and the Balearic islander has adapted wonderfully well to a team of galacticos in his first full year.
The burden of wearing the famous white shirt does not weigh down on him, playing with all the exuberance that his youthful age permits. And while he’s had to make do with a bit-part role, he’s put in some standout performances and bagged some noteworthy goals (his cracker in the 3-3 Copa del Rey 2nd leg at Sevilla, particularly).
Marco's drop off in form
However, since the cup quarter-final defeat to Celta Vigo (he started both games in that tie), where he contributed little, his prominence in Zidane's plans appears to have somewhat diminished. Asensio was a substitute on 29 January against Real Sociedad and only played six minutes, having come on as Zidane’s third substitute to replace Lucas Vázquez with the game already wrapped up. And after that…nothing.
Still plenty of potential
It’s easy to forget, however, that Asensio is the youngest player in the regular first-team squad after Mariano, in a team of world-class stars, no less. That is perhaps the fairest indicator as to why he is the player with only the 18th most minutes (1,227) for Real Madrid in 2016-17.
Knowing that, and with the steady progression he has made under Zidane, it’s unlikely he’ll be making any noises about that fact. And like the majority of this Real Madrid team, he’s focused and ready to do a job when called upon. That, after all, is exactly what Zidane will likely do in this key week where Madrid play two tough away games (Valencia and Villarreal) in five days and can extend the gap between themselves and Barcelona.