Marco Asensio: how Real Madrid beat Barcelona and Athletic to his signature

Barça were unwilling to pay Mallorca Asensio's entire buyout clause in cash, while Athletic Club were also interested as the player's father is Basque
UEFA Champions League group stage draw

Marco Asensio: how Real Madrid beat Barcelona and Athletic to his signature

Marco Asensio is delighting the crowd at the Santiago Bernabéu. His two left-footed strikes salvaged a draw at home to a resurgent Valencia on Sunday evening, providing further evidence that the young man from Mallorca is a special talent. Yet instead of the Bernabéu, it could have been San Mamés or Camp Nou. Both Athletic Club and Barcelona tracked the progress of Asensio before his move to the Spanish Capital.

Barcelona could have beaten Madrid to Asensio

Marco Asensio signed on the dotted line at Real Madrid in January 2015, before returning to Real Mallorca until the end of that season. Following another loan stint at Espanyol, Asensio took his place in the Madrid squad for the 2016/17 campaign. His performances have been spectacular.

Barcelona could have moved for Asensio six months before Madrid. The Azulgrana negotiated with the player’s agent, and proposed a cash payment of €2.5m, with the remainder of his buyout clause to be paid in two further installments. Mallorca wanted the clause in cash, in its entirety.

Marco Asensio: how Real Madrid beat Barcelona and Athletic to his signature

Yet Barça also had their eyes on another target. Brazilian full-back Douglas was available for €5.5m, and the club did not want to pursue both players. They opted for Douglas.

A few months later, José Angel Sánchez, Real Madrid’s sporting director, picked up the phone to Mallorca and closed a deal for Asensio at €3.9m. Mallorca had valued him at €4.5m, but accepted €600,000 less in order to keep the player on loan until the end of that season.

Asensio eligible for Athletic Club

Athletic Club were also aware of Asensio’s precocious talent. Crucially, he is eligible to play for the Basque club as his father, Gilberto, is from Barakaldo, just to the north of Bilbao towards the Bay of Biscay. Despite this link, Gilberto did not push a move to Lezama, because he understood that Real Madrid was his son’s dream destination.

Those who know Marco well say that he slept as a child with a Madrid teddy bear and pajamas. Now, it is Marco Asensio’s face that adorns the walls of young Madridistas.