For Marco Asensio, the 2016/17 season has been one to remember, as he scored the first and last goals of a historic Real Madrid double.
Yet he and the team remain as eager to win as ever, despite already pocketing LaLiga and Champions League medals.
As the 21-year-old explained in this interview with MARCA, he hopes the best is yet to come.
If someone had told you at the time of the UEFA Super Cup exactly how this season would turn out, would you have believed them?
“Yes. When you are at a club as big as Real Madrid, you aspire to win all the titles. Now, at international level, we have the target of trying to win the Under-21 European Championships.”
What did you think when you woke up on Tuesday and saw you were on the front page of MARCA, having renewed?
“It was something to round off a really great year. It has been a very complete year for me, one in which I’ve gone through many situations and in which I’ve learned and matured a lot.”
How does a 21-year-old player take this explosion in their stride?
“I try to face it in as natural a way as possible. When you’re at such a big club, everything goes very fast. Every three days there is an important game and you almost don’t have time to enjoy what came before.”
Are you the same Marco Asensio as when you arrived at Real Madrid?
“I didn’t have anything to change. You learn from every experience. I can’t be the exact same, given all we’ve experienced and won, but the smile is the same!”
What did you feel when you held your Champions League medal?
“The day before I had imagined that we’d won and that I could take a photo with the trophy. Then, when you have it and touch it, it’s a dream come true, something I imagined since I was a boy. To see myself with the Champions League trophy at such a young age was an incredible and tremendous feeling.”
How can you seem to care just as much about a Copa del Rey game in Leon as you do about a Champions League final?
“I don’t usually get nervous on the pitch because playing football is what I’ve done all my life. Before matches there is a little pressure and quiet, but on the pitch you forget it all. You only think about playing football.”
Are you saying that a player in a Champions League final against Juventus still views the game like a kid?
“Yes. When I go out onto the pitch I don’t do so thinking about objectives or the need to win. Rather, I think about enjoying it, but from a point of view of responsibility and of giving your all.”
How have you coped with so much attention on the streets?
“It used to make me embarrassed. When I would go out with my friends in the street in Palma and when I was in the first team, people would stop me and ask if I was Marco Asensio. I used to tell them that I wasn’t and that I just looked like him. My friends would flip out and ask what I was doing. With time you get used to it and it’s normal.”
It’s been said that you spoke with Zinedine Zidane a lot because you weren’t used to playing so infrequently. What came of what he told you?
“We had some chats and he told me that I was young and to work hard because my chance would come. And it did. I had opportunities to play some important games at the end of the season.”
What did you learn from those days of not playing?
“I learned a lot and learned not to give up, to keep working. There were difficult times, as I hadn’t been used to having a lack of consistent playing time in my other teams.”
They say that Florentino Perez was surprised when Zidane told him you had to stay, as you could be important for the team.
“I didn’t know that. I had a discussion with the coach before the [UEFA Super Cup] and he told me I was going to stay. That was a relief for me. It gave me confidence, knowing I’d play a part that season.”
What is it like to have a coach who was an idol for you when you were younger?
“It’s incredible. I idolised Zidane and watched all his games and had his photos. For me, it is tremendous to have him by my side, listening to his advice and learning from what he says. He even puts himself in our training ground games and the quality is still there.”
What does a young player learn about becoming elite by playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo?
“So much! What I admire about him is the ambition he has after having won so many things on a collective and individual basis. The hunger he still has, the way he trained and the same he stays in the gym once we’ve finished. He always wants more and that affects the rest of the team. In every training session, you learn from him.”
You’ve been a Real Madrid fan since childhood. What is the club like from the inside?
“It is something different and very big. Everything is magnified, but once you are inside it is all very familiar. It’s a shock at first, but you get used to it. Real Madrid demands the maximum. You have to win and please.”
You’re at Real Madrid, but wasn’t there a chance you could have played at Athletic Club?
“Yes, that is true. There was something two years ago. Yet it couldn’t happen because I didn’t meet their policy.”
With three Champions Leagues in four years, are you aware of what this team is doing?
“It is something tremendous. It seems easy, but to win three Champions Leagues in four years is incredible. This team has an incredible generation which is full of ambition. We cannot lose that hunger to win. That is the key.”
At 21 years old, the ‘Decimotercera’ seems like it’ll arrive for you soon at this rate?
“I spoke about that with Sergio Ramos and he told me not to get used to this because it is very difficult. It took him a long time to win his first Champions League and many club legends have never won it. I was lucky enough to do so in my first year.”
Can you see youself at the World Cup in one year’s time?
“I will work to be there. It would be incredible for me.”