There was a moment last season, just a few weeks into the 2017/18 campaign, when Marco Asensio looked to have taken that next step. With one particularly stunning strike in the Spanish SuperCopa win over Barcelona in August, he became the vanguard of the next generation. A world beater.
Over the course of the season, though, Asensio lost his way. Zinedine Zidane seemingly lost faith in the youngster, who was a peripheral figure by the time Real Madrid went on to win their third successive Champions League title. There were even rumours that he could leave the Spanish capital, with a move to the Premier League mooted.
The summer, and Zidane’s exit, should have been a fresh start for Asensio. Julen Lopetegui was a manager renowned for his faith in young, homegrown talent and had got the best out of Asensio during his time as Spain coach. And yet with Lopetegui gone and Santiago Solari already appointed as his replacement, Asensio is still a shadow of his former self.
Comments made by the 22-year-old this week, on the same day that Solari’s appointment was confirmed, were revealing of the nature of the Real Madrid dressing room this season. “For me, I don’t see Madrid in a crisis,” he insisted in an interview. “And I don’t think it’s for me to carry the team – there are players who are much more experienced, have more years playing under their belts and more status than I have and they’re the ones who have to lead the team. When the new coach arrived I started off playing but now I am getting less chances but we’ll draw any conclusions when the season has ended.”
These remarks painted a picture of a dressing room lacking in leadership. Much has been made of Real Madrid’s failure to replace the goals lost through the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, but they also lost his character and driving spirit. Ronaldo dragged his teammates through stages of last season and without him Real Madrid have become spineless.
The argument could be made that as a 22-year-old with not much in the way of top tier experience, Asensio shouldn’t be the one to carry and lead Real Madrid. But this is a player who is tipped as a future Ballon d’Or winner, he could go on to become one of the best players in the game, and with that quality comes a burden of responsibility.
Asensio is one of the players who must raise his game to help Real Madrid out of the hole they currently find themselves in, and he can’t rely on others to take the lead. The likes of Asensio, Isco, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale need to take responsibility for their own performances, but this week has revealed the true extent of the problems Solari has inherited.
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