What: Asensio’s debut
When: August 9th 2016
Who: Against Sevilla
Where: Lerkendal Stadion, Trondheim, Norway
Score: Real Madrid 3-2 (a.e.t.) Sevilla
Goals: 1-0 (Marco Asensio, min 21), 1-1 (Franco Vázquez, min 41), 1-2 (Yevhen Konoplyanka, pen, min 72), 2-2 (Sergio Ramos, min 90+3), 3-2 (Dani Carvajal, min 119)
Real Madrid line-up: Kiko Casillas; Dani Carvajal, Raphaël Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Mateo Kovačić (James Rodríguez, min 73), Casemiro, Isco (Luka Modrić, min 66); Lucas Vázquez, Álvaro Morata (Karim Benzema, min 62), Marco Asensio.
Coach: Zinedine Zidane
“¡Hola! ¿Qué tal? Buenas tardes. Soy Marco Asensio y me quiero quedar en el Real Madrid.”
“Hello. How are you? Good evening. I’m Marco Asensio and I want to stay at Real Madrid.”
Those were the words that Spanish commentator José Sanchís put in the mouth of the kid from Mallorca just after he’d fired the ball into Sevilla’s top corner on his Real Madrid competitive debut. But that is probably exactly what he was thinking at the moment his rocket from downtown shook the Norwegian raindrops that had nestled on the roof of the net in the Lerkendal Stadion in Trondheim.
Debut goals don’t get much better than the long-range missile that Asensio directed sweetly, powerfully and frictionlessly into the top corner for the opener of the 2016 UEFA Super Cup. Most players don’t score a goal like that in their whole careers, yet Asensio did so just 21 minutes into his competitive debut for the capital city club.
After catching the eye in 2015/16 while on loan with Espanyol and after impressing Zinedine Zidane during Real Madrid’s pre-season, the French coach told Asensio before this UEFA Super Cup match that he’d be staying in Los Blancos’ first-team squad for the upcoming season and that he’d be starting this game in Trondheim for his debut.
But then Asensio slept in on the morning of the game.
“The coach might drop you now,” Sergio Ramos warned him, sending a message as the captain of the European champions. We don’t know exactly what Asensio thought in response to that warning, but his body language on the pitch of the Lerkendal Stadion suggested he wasn’t fazed. The then-20-year-old had an excellent start to this clash with Sevilla, but it wasn’t because he was trying extra hard, as if to make up for his extra 20 minutes in bed. If anything, he was so good because he was so relaxed. He was himself.
Going up against Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla and their back three meant that this was a more tactically challenging encounter than most and the Andalusian side started by completely dominating possession, but Real Madrid were able to create a few early chances and all of them passed through the boots of the confident and calm youngster. First, Asensio set up Ramos for a dangerous header from a corner. Second, he had a shot that drew a decent save from Sergio Rico. Third, he fired a low cross across goal that Lucas Vázquez nearly turned in. Then, Asensio hit his famous strike for the opening goal.
Sevilla did turn the game around to lead 2-1 thanks to goals from Franco Vázquez and Yevhen Konoplyanka, but Asensio remained effective and useful for most of the game. His complete dominance of Real Madrid’s front left even allowed Marcelo to stay back and focus on defending, something the Brazilian did well in this game.
As the match approached the final stages, Asensio did tire. Especially after the introduction of Karim Benzema in place of Álvaro Morata as this made the front three more fluid and required more interchanging and, therefore, more running from the men up top. This led to a few lazy tackles towards the end of the 90 minutes, one of which Asensio was booked for.
With Ramos heading in an equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time, this brought about another 30 minutes of action. And with Real Madrid having had to make tactical changes and with no fourth substitute back in 2016, Asensio was in for the long haul and had to keep going as his debut ended up lasting much longer than he’d have expected. The second yellow shown to Timothée Kolodziejczak and the injury to Nicolás Pareja – who had been marking Asensio for most of the game – did make life a little easier for Real Madrid and Asensio, while the final half hour of this final ended up being the Lucas Vázquez show in the same way as the opening half hour had been the Marco Asensio show.
Even still, the scores remained level for most of the extra time. It wasn’t until the 119th minute of the encounter that Dani Carvajal embarked on his famous UEFA Super Cup-winning tackle, run and finish.
That won Asensio his first trophy at the club as he started a season in which he’d play 38 games and score 10 goals. That included both Real Madrid’s first goal and last goal of the season, netting in Trondheim to kick off the UEFA Super Cup win and then rounding off the 2017 Champions League final win over Juventus in Cardiff 10 months later.
Asensio really burst onto the scene that year, the season that was perhaps his best at Real Madrid. It’s strange to say that this was his best year considering how raw and relaxed he was, but perhaps that’s actually why he was so effective. Perhaps the pressure that was placed on his shoulders after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018 really did weight him down. Perhaps he really was at his best when he was a young unknown kid who’d slept in on the morning of a European final. Perhaps he can get back to that blistering form when he returns from the injury that sidelined him for most of the current campaign. Perhaps.