"I'm very proud," said Marco Asensio after Real Madrid CF agreed a deal for the 18-year-old midfielder, described as "possibly the best player Mallorca have ever produced".
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"A pleasure to watch." That is how Spain coach Vicente del Bosque described Marco Asensio, the 18-year-old attacking midfielder Real Madrid CF have just signed from RCD Mallorca.
Exceptionally quick and skilful, Asensio has been attracting attention since his promotion to Mallorca's first team in October 2013. On Friday the European champions completed a deal for the exciting prospect, who will remain with Mallorca until the end of this season before upping sticks to the Spanish capital.
It would appear that Los Blancos have achieved quite a coup, signing a future star who was also in negotiations with rivals FC Barcelona. "He could well be the best player Mallorca have ever produced," effused former Mallorca youth coach Clemente Marín, who brought the youngster to the island club as a 10-year-old. Those sentiments are echoed by ex-Mallorca sporting director Nando Pons: "Even when he was a kid you could see he was a different kind of player. There aren't many with his characteristics."
It took Asensio a short while to adapt after taking the huge leap from B-team football in the Tercera División – Spain's fourth tier – to the Segunda División A, but in the new year he began to cement his place in the Mallorca team. Despite the club fighting relegation, and despite having three different coaches in the space of six months, Asensio progressed at an alarming pace.
Mallorca avoided relegation by a single point last season and have continued to struggle this term, but Asensio has had no such trouble: he was the stand-out performer in their first victory of the season, scoring the first and making the second in a 2-0 win at Deportivo Alavés on 11 October, and was named the Liga Adelante Player of the Month for October.
In a game against Lugo AD on 1 November, he came inches away from scoring the goal of his life, shooting wide after gaining possession near his own area and racing 65 metres. To date, Mallorca's youngest player has scored three goals and provided six assists in 14 matches, with direct involvement in more goals than anyone else in Mallorca's team this season.
Asensio has also been making waves at an international level, scoring three goals in two matches for Spain's under-19 team in a friendly tournament in Greece in November, including a double in a 5-1 dismantling of France.
Yet despite his rapid rise, those who know Asensio insist he has always kept a level head – he drives a small hatchback car and remains very close to his family, brought closer together since the tragic death of his mother when he was 15.
"Everything's happened very quickly but I'm dealing with it well," Asensio said after stealing the show against France. "I have confidence in my ability and I try to isolate myself from everything going on around me."
Two weeks later, he was able to confirm where his future lay. "It has been decided that I'm going to Real Madrid and I'm very happy," he said. "I'm very proud that the world's top clubs showed an interest in me, including the very best: Real Madrid. My Madridista friends are all very happy."