The bulk of transfer and roster personnel discussion this summer in the Real Madrid circle has revolved around the first team with the youth program and teenage signings often serving as a distant afterthought. After all, the senior side is the glamorous money machine playing at the highest level while the Castilla side, for example, has floundered for yet another year and isn’t exactly churning out wonderkid after wonderkid. However, with the recent performances put on by Marco Asensio and Borja Mayoral, perhaps it is the youth under this club’s control, especially Asensio, and less so the first team signings, which is providing the most excitement this summer.
Asensio is the Mallorca-born attacking midfielder who has caught the European U19 Championship by storm. Bought for a measly €3.9 million fee in December following a battle of interest between Real Madrid and Barcelona, Asensio has scored two goals and provided three assists in five U19 Euro matches as an incredibly talented Spanish side took home the top prize for the tenth time. Asensio was hardly the only star as defender Jesus Vallejo, winger Dani Ceballos and Madrid’s own Mayoral all showed flashes of potential. However, it was Asensio’s direct running and control of the offense which put him on the map as one of Europe’s top prospects.
For those who have watched Mallorca this season, his showing in the tournament shouldn’t come as a surprise. Playing for a Mallorca side which was often abysmal on offense, Asensio was regularly tasked with not only creating opportunities for his teammates but also having the burden of scoring placed on him as well, all at the age of 19. Despite these expectations, Asensio soared in 2014-2015 with six goals and eight assists to his name in 36 matches, numbers which could have been higher if it wasn't for his often inept teammates.
Having trained as a winger in his youth days, it wasn’t until he was moved to the center of the pitch that he saw his game thrive. Asensio possesses the trickery which has often seen him compared to Isco, another former wonderkid plying his trade with the Real Madrid senior side, but he also possesses the prolonged burst and physical prowess which some wish Isco would have more of. An elite dribbler with an eye for the throughball, Asensio can play the traditional playmaker role or more of a direct winger either staying wide or cutting in on net given his excellent left foot and crossing skills. His defensive output needs refinement and he won't be winning aerial duels often due to his size but what he lacks in those areas he more than makes up in his nonstop direct play aimed at the goal.
One must also give credit to Mayoral for his showing in the tournament as he picked up the top scorer award with three goals in five matches. Even more astounding than his positional skills on display in the tournament is his goal tally as a youth member for Real Madrid as he’s found the back of the net over 130 times in the last three years with 50+ goals in back-to-back seasons.
Capable of finishing with either foot and blessed with a neat burst of pace and strength, it is Mayoral’s positioning and instincts in front of goal which are truly beyond his years. As he’s over six feet tall and quite technically skilled for his age, it’s no surprise that he’s regularly able to find himself in advantageous positions to fire on goal. Comparisons from Alvaro Morata to Fernando Morientes have followed him and he’ll be one of the players tasked with trying to keep a mediocre Castilla side in the hunt for promotion this season, despite recent rumblings that perhaps Rafa Benitez should use him as Karim Benzema’s backup. Fans of this club regularly demand the latest and most hyped young strikers elsewhere be added to the roster in the summer but perhaps it is one of the club's own who'll be the starlet fans dream of.
Of course, it’s still far too early to proclaim Asensio and Mayoral future first team stars. This is a club notorious for buying, chewing and spitting up promising youngsters who go on to feature in first teams elsewhere and not in the capitol city club. With the senior side almost continuously being replenished by big-name acquisitions, youngsters will have to show something truly special to make it to the top and stick there. As mentioned, Mayoral will stay within the organization while Asensio has been linked to a host of clubs looking to take him on loan, most notably Espanyol whose own president has confirmed that the club is looking to borrow him for the coming season. Thanks to his skill level and output this past season, fans should reasonably expect him to more or less be a regular starter when fitness permits.
Gven Asensio’s incredible growth and hype within Spain, Mayoral’s astounding goal tally in the youth ranks and the high-profile transfer saga of Martin Odegaard, perhaps fans should start to let their excitement grow for a future generation of starlets on the first team’s horizon. The youth system isn't particularly overflowing with first team prospects, nor is this organization making many smart decisions when it comes to the program, but what they have done right is offer a sense of hope with the acquisitions of Asensio and Odegaard and the nurturing of Mayoral.