Zidane's star pupil Asensio causing selection headache

Andy West 20:29 22/08/2016
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Asensio scored in the victory at Real Sociedad.

After spending last season on loan at Espanyol, the former Mallorca winger has greatly impressed his French coach over the last few weeks to rapidly establish himself as a key member of the squad.

Asensio scored the team’s first competitive goal of the campaign with a long-range stunner in the UEFA Super Cup victory over Sevilla, and on Sunday vindicated Zidane’s decision to put him in the starting eleven for the league opening 3-0 win at Real Sociedad with a delightful chipped goal.

Accommodating the new sensation meant leaving established internationals Isco, James Rodriguez and Lucas Vazquez on the substitutes’ bench, and Zidane admitted the selection process was far from straightforward.

“Picking my team gives me a headache because they are all quality players,” smiled the Madrid boss, who is happy to have made a positive start to his first full season in management.

“What pleases me is that they are all doing extremely well. We fight for every ball, and seeing your team concede hardly any chances and keep a clean sheet is the most pleasing thing for a coach.”

Zidane had particular words of praise for league debutant Asensio, but reminded the fast-rising star to carry on playing his part for the collective cause as he said: “Asensio is working hard, he has quality and talent.

“He is very good with the ball and positions himself well. His goal was impressive and he lost his marker well. I was very satisfied with his game, but the most important aspect is the team.”

The man of the moment insists he will not get carried away with his sudden and unexpected success, claiming that he has no specific goals for the season.

“I don’t set myself any targets,” said Asensio. “I just try to work hard, play well and at the moment things are working out.

“I’m happy and even more so because my goals are helping the team. In training, I just try to do my best to be picked.”

Without question, the men who could become the biggest losers in Asensio’s emergence are Isco and James, whose frustration at failing to make the starting line-up was exacerbated by the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric were all missing through injury.

With Vazquez also established as a firm Zidane favourite, the prospect of Isco or James making the starting eleven on a regular basis now looks very remote, throwing their futures at the Bernabeu into fresh doubt.

Colombian star James, in particular, has been the subject of intense speculation throughout the summer after struggling to gain much playing time in the latter stages of last season.

Zidane has repeatedly stated that he wants to keep the former Porto and Monaco man, but with a week of the transfer window remaining his resolve may yet be tested.

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