REAL MADRID

Asensio is Real Madrid's 'super-signing'

Zidane has recovered a player considered fundamental. It took the attacker just 29 seconds to score after coming on in the second half against Valencia.

Asensio is Real Madrid's 'super-signing'
JAVIER SORIANO AFP

Marco Asensio is back. 329 have passed since he suffered a serious knee injury but on Thursday night, he stepped back on the field for an official game. What came next could not have been better. The 24-year-old took just 29 seconds to reacquaint himself with the ball and with his first touch, he score to put Madrid 2-0 up against Valencia.

The debut specialist has scored in each of his debuts: Spanish Super Cup, LaLiga, Champions League, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup. The game against Valencia, while not a debut, was his reintroduction after suffering an ACL tear during the preseason last summer. It was his first game behind close doors after the coronavirus lockdown and he did not disappoint.

It also highlighted Asensio's importance to Zidane. During a season where Real Madrid have struggled for goals, the manager saw Asensio as a solution to this glaring issue. The stats from the Valencia match alone tell the tale. In the first half, they had eight shots on target from nine attempts in total. They didn't score. Cillessen in goals for los Che was comfortable and it's this lack of efficiency that has hurt Madrid this season. Asensio needed just one effort, one touch, to finish and that goal put the game to bed.

His ability to score important goals does not surprise Zidane, who got the chance to debut his preferred attacking three of Hazard, Benzema and Asensio. It was his ideal attack before the knee injury robbed Asensio of most of the season and it is his ideal attack now that the attacker has recovered. Asensio averages 10 goals per season without ever being a starter. That could change in the coming weeks and Zidane hopes to see the results.

Zidane needs goals but what he also gets from Asensio is assists. He created a fine opportunity for Benzema, who finished with aplomb late on Thursday night to make it 3-0. Zidane showed his belief in Asensio by getting him to warm up during a potentially season-defining game poised at 0-0. He eventually came on with the score 1-0 and there was still plenty to be decided. Asensio killed the game with his first touch and repaid Zidane's faith. As far as mid-season additions go, Asensio could prove vital.