On February 2005, David Villa made his debut with the Spanish national team in Almeria.
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean at that time, Mallorca scout Clemente Marin was still rubbing his eyes in disbelief at the young prospect he had discovered a few months previously.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids play but what I saw wasn’t normal,” he recalled. “They weren’t able to take the ball off him. He had a real gift.”
The subject of that memory is, of course, Real Madrid star Marco Asensio .
By October 27, 2013, David Vila had 93 caps and 56 goals for La Roja, more than anyone else in the history of the national side and that same day in Huelva, Jose Luis Oltra gave Asensio his first team debut with Mallorca.
“When I arrived at the club, they told me that I had to see a boy who was the jewel in the crown at youth level,” he said.
A game was set up between Asensio’s youth team and the first team and it went so well for the youngster that he was told by the senior players that he should remain and train with them.
“The veterans told me he had to stay,” Oltra remembered. “He earned his debut on merit so what could I do? I regret not giving him more chances but I also didn’t want to wear him down.”
Now, in August 2017, Villa has returned to the national team after three years away and Asensio is the new idol of the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, a breakout star who is the talk of Europe and could be a real threat for Spain against Italy and Gianluigi Buffon.
“I’m not surprised by what he’s doing. He’s going to get to where he wants to go. He was a boy who did things that I was glimpses of Zidane in,” continued the man who discovered him.
“Today, he scores goals like the one against Valencia which the goalkeeper didn’t even see. They are like the masterpieces of a painter.”
“He is a brutal natural talent,” Oltra agreed. “His quality, dribbling, shooting, final pass, change of pace, everything… he is a very good player.”
Both men, one who first noticed his talents as a young child and the man who handed him a debut at 17, highlighted two major aspects of his personality: his humility and his family values.
“He’s a very simple boy. Very humble. Nobody is gong to give him a big head. No matter where he is, his mother is always with him along with the rest of his family,” revealed Marin.
“Maturity,” Oltra emphasises is the one word above all others which best describes him. “He’s a very mature person. He went through a very hard time with his mother’s death but he has a very good environment around him and has a strong head on his shoulders.”
Although bot Marin and Oltra are unsure about whether or not he will get a chance against the Azzurri on Saturday, he is undoubtedly in contention.
On Saturday, at his Bernabeu, he will be looking for his first great night at international level but if his career so far has taught us anything, it is that he is ready for any challenge which comes his way.