Real Madrid attacking midfielder Marco Asensio is starting to make headlines across Europe with his recent sparkling displays for the European champions and during the European U-21 Championships for Spain.
The 21-year-old magician could be the heir to Cristiano Ronaldo’s crown at the Bernabeu and, like the ex-Manchester United man, he has scored big goals in big games such as last season’s Champions League final triumph over Juventus.
More recently, he scored one of the greatest goals seen in an El Clasico in recent memory with a stunning strike as Los Blancos thumped their fierce rivals in the Spanish Super Cup 5-1 on aggregate.
There is a gap developing between Real Madrid and Barcelona as Real’s emphatic Super Cup win demonstrated. Gerard Pique remarked after the game that he had never felt inferior to Real Madrid before now.
The loss of Neymar to PSG has weakened the Catalan side’s hand significantly as they struggle to get deals over the line for Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele.
To rub salt in the wounds, Barcelona rejected the chance to sign Asensio for just £4 million from Mallorca in 2014. This is a player who is among the best young talents in Europe with Kylian M’bappe and the previously mentioned Dembele.
Real Madrid quickly swooped in for Asensio in a bargain deal after their rivals snubbed him and now they have Spain’s most exciting young talent on their hands.
Asensio is an example of the current gulf between Real and Barca. The European champions dominance shows no sign of ending with Zidane integrating a number of young players such as Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Marcos Llorente and the newly signed Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernandez into his team of champions.
Meanwhile the famed Barcelona ‘La Masia’ academy is experiencing a drought as the young players given a chance have failed to impressed. The problems at the club are emphasized by the decision to sign back Gerard Deulofeu – an Everton reject.
With Neymar gone, there is no pretender to Lionel Messi’s throne at the club. The days of Xavi, Iniesta, Pique and Fabregas coming through are starting to seem like a distant memory.
‘Mes que en club’ – More than just a club. That is the famous Barcelona motto but now they are losing their identity as they scramble around in a panic in a bid to reinvest the Neymar money and bridge the gap to their rivals.
It is now Real Madrid who are the dominant force both domestically and in Europe after being in the shadow during the glory years under Pep Guardiola.
Vincent O’Shea, Pundit Arena