The recent transfer of goalkeeper David de Gea from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United is one that represents a truly beautiful tale of football.
The young Spanish keeper grew up at the Vicente Calderon, working his way up from the youth ranks and eventually cementing his role as the club’s number one keeper in just a matter of years. Some poor results and injuries in the squad gave de Gea the opportunity to shine, one which he grabbed with both hands.
He instantly had a number of impressive showings and was tipped for great success, even leading some to say his displays warranted a call up to Spain’s national team. The 20-year-old was duly snapped up by Premier League giants Manchester United for a reported fee of £17m and managed to make his tale all the more more inspiring by writing a heartfelt note to the fans of Atletico Madrid.
For however beautiful and touching the story of David de Gea is though, his meteoric rise is deeply intertwined with one of the footballing world’s more unfortunate stories: the demise of one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the world, Sergio Asenjo.
It all began in 2007 when Asenjo was given his first opportunity to shine at the top level. Having impressed with Valladolid’s reserve side in the third division, the club instantly brought him in due to poor performances from the first team keepers at the time. Although the move was heavily questioned, Asenjo managed to go beyond expectations in his debut.
His first match in La Liga was a successful 2-0 victory against Villarreal, just a precursor of things to come from the young keeper. Indeed, the then 19-year-old would go on to concede just once in his first five matches, immediately drawing the attention of Europe’s big guns.
He was automatically the number one keeper at Valladolid, ensuring his spot with more solid performances throughout the season. Asenjo began the 2008-09 season just as well, but would end up missing three months due to an unfortunate knee injury.
His big move was looking imminent in the following summer, with a host of European clubs all interested, including Fiorentina, Atletico Madrid, and most notably Barcelona. Asenjo had made it clear that his main priority was to stay in Spain, eventually narrowing his options down to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
While Barcelona obviously presented the more tempting choice for the Valladolid shot stopper, he opted for Atletico Madrid knowing he would be guaranteed regular playing time at the Vicente Calderon.
Sergio Asenjo officially joined Atletico Madrid on a four-year contract on July 8, 2009 for a fee of approximately €5 million. As expected, he started the season auspiciously, but would eventually lose his first choice position to David de Gea following many poor displays and the introduction of new coach Quique Sanchez Flores.
He would be given just a few more chances with Atletico Madrid, but would succumb to another knee injury during May of 2010.
Knowing that his chances with Los Rojiblancos would be limited, Asenjo accepted a loan deal to Malaga in late November. Again he struggled for regular minutes, but looked to finally make his breakthrough with a promising spell of performances in January.
Asenjo started four consecutive league matches, conceding a unimpressive 10 goals, but exhibiting some brilliant, commanding goalkeeping displays against the likes of Barcelona and Valencia.
He looked to have a good thing going but managed to pick up an early knock in a scoreless draw against Sevilla. This meant he would be sidelined for the rest of the season, before he returned to Atletico Madrid.
Now, with David de Gea out of the picture, it would be safe to assume that Sergio Asenjo would be number one Los Colchoneros. Unfortunately though, Atletico Madrid have yet another promising young keeper on their hands in the form of Joel.
The 20-year-old youth product has a large future ahead of him and his past with the youth ranks will make him a fan favorite. Not only that, but Atletico Madrid have also taken Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on loan as well.
The 19-year-old Belgian comes directly from Racing Genk where he played a pivotal role in a triumphant 2010-11 campaign. His presence along with that of Joel, who appears to now be the first choice keeper, will mean that Asenjo will have even more limited chances with the club now.
The question at hand is whether or not a club should take the risk of signing Asenjo. Once considered the most promising young keeper in the world, Asenjo has now been reduced to a third choice keeper at a struggling club.
Asenjo had great potential, but his proneness to injury has and can still play a negative role in his career. On the other hand, maybe all the kid needs is a little bit of confidence. Luckily for him, he is only 22 years of age.
It seems like a long time ago that he was being linked with Real Madrid and Tottenham, but he is still young, especially considering that most keeper do not peak until their mid-20s.
With two quality young keepers already at Atletico, Asenjo could be on the move this summer, so who’s willing to take the risk?