Why Zinedine Zidane needs to keep Marco Asensio away from the spotlight this season
The football world is Marco Asensio’s if he desires it, and he clearly does, but Zinedine Zidane must make sure he doesn't burn out before he gets there.
A scintillating rise for Asensio since his return from a loan spell at Espanyol has seen the 21-year-old crowbar himself into the Real Madrid XI. Only the most special of talents can do that at Real Madrid when so young, and indeed Asensio is very special.
The boy from Palma de Mallorca has already set about making history, becoming the first player ever to score in five separate debut games. Asensio played his first official Real Madrid game in the European Super Cup, scoring against Sevilla.
His La Liga debut saw him bag a sumptuous goal against Real Sociedad while in his first few minutes of Champions League action, he scored against Legia Warsaw at the Bernabéu. Then in the Copa del Rey, he managed to score against Cultural Leonesa. Finally, his stunning strike against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup in August completed the incredible achievement.
It’s easy to get carried away by Asensio’s current ability, and his evident potential. But, without raining on any parade, he must be handled with extreme care by Real Madrid and particularly Zidane. The Frenchman has so far protected the player exceptionally well, and when he prevented Asensio from featuring regularly at the start of last season by making him sit out the opening six games, there was a view to his future even then. Zidane maybe views a lot of himself in Asensio, and understand the pitfalls of being a player in the spotlight.
The feeling takes on even greater concern when you consider the club involved is Real Madrid. The pressure and expectations are ridiculously high, with older, more experienced players failing to grasp the magnitude of playing for the club. That why Asensio, as flawlessly as he’s handled pressure so far, needs wrapping in cotton wool at times.
It’s unrealistic to expect too much of him so far despite the talent, and allowing him to grow as a player and person away from the spotlight will reap great rewards when he is older.
Asensio’s star turn against Valencia was a sign of his willingness to take on the baton as Real Madrid’s superstar. Cristiano Ronaldo, sidelined through suspension, was absent and it was Asensio who stood the tallest to fit in the gigantic gap left by the Portuguese. Thinking he can always do that is wrong, however, and while capable, it’s the burden of expectation that could burn the player out before he’s even truly caught fire.
"I'm not surprised by Marco Asensio but we have to leave him in peace," he added. "What's important is that he has a cool head to keep progressing because he hasn't reached his limit yet, “ said Zidane recently, emphasising the need to keep the buzz surround Asensio to the minimum.
"He can grow much more but with calm, with patience and humility, which he has.” continued the French coach, who will continue to have a significant say and presence in Asensio’s life, these still formative years. A low-key performance against Real Betis, with his team struggling, showed Asensio can't produce on tap quite yet, and there will be more games like this in which are bigger than him.
The lessons and humility Asensio takes on board at 21-years-old will be vital to his development. He’s soaking up every bit of advice he can get right now, and remaining grounded is the most key piece. That, and playing his natural game with freedom and enjoyment. This won’t be possible if he’s continuously thrust in the spotlight and has demands placed upon him that are unreasonable.
Too often we destroy our young players by smothering them with praise and conjecture. They must be allowed to grow in their own time.
Even Asensio, who might well be the best young player in the world, needs time.