Marco Asensio is a favourite of Zinedine Zidane and during the club’s pre-season tour has been showing up Gareth Bale, who failed to score in three matches in the USA and in the Clásico against Barcelona had the fewest touches of any Real player in the first half.
Asensio joined up with the squad on July 21, 10 days later than Bale, but in just 75 minutes he contributed a lot more to the side than the Welshman did over the course of 179. Against Manchester City the 21-year-old looked sharp, playing two searching balls for Borja Mayoral and Jesús Vallejo that almost resulted in goals, against Barça he displayed the talent and form that will make it hard for Zidane to omit him from the starting line-up for the European Supercup against Manchester United on August 8. His run and pick-up for Real’s second goal was reminiscent of Bale and confirmed that the fine form Asensio showed at the end of last season was no flash in the pan.
Asensio repaying Zidane's faith
Whenever he has been handed the opportunity, Asensio has responded on the pitch. Zidane’s confidence in the player’s ability was the catalyst for James Rodríguez’s exit from the Bernabéu with the Real boss eager to hand more game time to his number 20 over the course of 2017-18. Zidane’s faith in Asensio is matched by the Real hierarchy, who hope that his performances from last season, which reaped 10 goals and three assists, will give Real another edge as they compete across several competitions and as reigning European and Liga champions.
World Cup goal for Real's latest star
After a stand-out European under-21 Championship in Poland, Asensio also has a fixed objective for the campaign beyond cementing his place in the Real starting 11: a role with the senior national side at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Spain coach Julen Lopetegui called Asensio up to his most recent squad and it would be a surprise if he was not included in the next one for the international break in August.
The former Mallorca forward has left behind his difficult start to the 2016-17 season, when at one stage he went six consecutive games without getting a minute on the pitch. Such is his standing now at the club that he is pushing Bale for a place in the starting line-up not only for the Supercup curtain-raisers in August but for the 2017-18 season as a whole.