It’s never ideal to start an interview with a challenging question, but it’s the elephant in the room as I sit down with 25-year-old Marco Asensio at the adidas World of Sports. What does his future at Real Madrid, the club he joined as a teenager from Mallorca, look like? The newspapers are awash with news that Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund are interested in the Spanish international
Marco Asensio takes the question in his stride and doesn’t shy away from it. “Transfer rumors are part of the job. They are part of a footballer’s life and even more so when you play for Real Madrid. There are always rumors of newcomers, outgoing players,” he explains. “The way I see it, I’m currently at the biggest club in the world and the season has only just started, so it’s too early to talk about transfers. I recognize that it’s up to me to play well, give my all for the team and have a good season. And then we will see.”
Face the critics and control what you can
I feel bad for asking the question. I put myself in his shoes and think about if someone asked a similar question in the business world. It’s not a nice feeling having people question your place in any team. But I can see Marco Asensio doesn’t take it to heart and is confident in who he is as person and a footballer.
The Spanish international knows these questions, the newspaper headlines, and the radio debates about his injury: Will he return? Who else is competing for his spot? What sort of player does Real need to get them goals this season…? It’s all part of the job – a job that he loves, a job he’s grateful to have, and a job he recognizes is every little boy’s dream.
“I’ve recently had an injury that kept me out of the game for the longest period in my career. It’s the first time it’s happened. I’ve taken the time to understand my body better, take care of it better, and I’ve learned what it needs to recover. I’ve also used the time to look at games from the sidelines more intently. See the plays the team is making, watch the movements of my teammates on the pitch and learn from that. Focusing on these things has helped me stay positive and built my resilience while I wait to come back into the team.”
Confidence needs a strong support system to flourish
Marco is visiting adidas with his family. It’s the support system that he believes has helped him grow into the strong, confident and level-headed footballer he has become. It’s also something he recognizes not every kid has.
“At the moment, when a kid grows up and reaches the first team, they’re there because they’re a good footballer, but behind the scenes no one has prepared them to make that the big step mentally. This is where having the right team around you, your family and close friends that will support you is so important. But not every kid is lucky enough to have this.”
Looking after youth players’ physical AND mental needs is something Marco feels can be improved. “I think it has to become part of football academies in the future. More support is needed for young players. When you start to make it, the media attention goes from zero to 100, you start to get noticed on the street, and if you’re not in a good place and confident in yourself, it can be difficult for those kids. Clubs are starting to recognize that there is a coaching gap there and are starting to create those spaces where honest conversations can be had.”
The power of a positive attitude
Marco goes on to explain, “Growing up in a footballing environment brings highs and lows, and young players need support to keep a positive attitude so they can understand that it’s all part of the job. There are times when it’s going well, there are times when it’s not, and there are times when it’s just going as it needs to be. Balance and resilience here is really important.”
“Sport for kids should be a hobby until an age when they need to take it more seriously. Some will make it as professionals whereas others won’t, but that’s life. If they love their sport, they’ll still have that to enjoy whether it becomes their career or not.”
As we finish our chat Marco explains that the recent downtime he has had has made him appreciate his chosen sport even more. “When I get back to training and playing matches after this injury, everything is going to feel even sweeter. If you’re lucky enough to have a job that you love – like me – my advice is to enjoy every minute of it, as the years go by quickly.”
It’s clear that whoever Marco Asensio plays for in the coming years, they’ll be getting a confident and resilient professional who will start each match with a smile on his face, happy to be enjoying what he does best.