Marco Asensio’s goal in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona on Wednesday was wonderful, but it was not a surprise.
Asensio, the 21-year-old winger from Mallorca, picked the ball up around 30 yards from the Barcelona goal. He shifted the ball almost imperceptibly onto his left foot and then, with minimal backlift, he sent a swerving, dipping shot into the top corner. Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the Barcelona goalkeeper, was well-positioned to save the strike and yet he didn’t move, just watched it scorch past him, a firework from a world slightly more fabulous than this one.
If you wear spectacles, sometimes you will search madly for them in drawers and on worktops before finding them on the end of your nose. Signed from Mallorca in 2014, Asensio was always meant to be good but it’s probable Real never expected his progression to be this rapid. He scored in the Champions League final against Juventus in June and he scored in the first leg of the Super Cup last week with a goal almost as ridiculous as his second-leg effort.
It takes a special talent to make Gareth Bale seem like the past. Bale continues to work his way back tentatively from injury; he was left out of the Real team on Tuesday for Asensio and when the youngster was substituted it was for Theo Hernandez, not Bale.
It’s possible to view Bale’s omission from several different perspectives, of course. Isco, too, was left on the bench and he remains a crucial part of Zinedine Zidane’s plans this season. But Isco does not have to compete with the startling Asensio. Right now, it is hard to see how it is possible for Zidane to leave Asensio out of his starting lineup. So either he luxuriates in a 86 million pound substitute or Real signals to Europe’s circling predatory birds that Bale is available for a transfer. It was revealed this week that Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have made one play for Bale this summer already. The rise and rise of Asensio should give them renewed hope for the chase.