It might have been over ten years since Atletico Madrid beat Real Madrid and more than fifteen since the same club won the league title, but few can remember the last time los Rojiblancos had a goalkeeping crisis – a good one that is. While attacking talent is usually found in abundance at the Vicente Calderon, security between the sticks is something that the club has struggled to find for a long time.
Back in the summer of 2009 it looked as though they had finally found a solution to the problem when they completed the capture of highly-rated youngster Sergio Asenjo from Valladolid, but then came David de Gea. A product of the Atletico youth-system, De Gea’s enormous potential was far from a secret – it was simply a matter of when he would take over as number one, rather than if. As it was, a couple of costly mistakes and the arrival the Quique Sanchez Flores meant that Asenjo’s presence in the first-team didn’t even last until Christmas. Three months into the New Year and things went from bad to worse for the former Valladolid shot-stopper as he tore cruciate ligaments in his right knee that would keep him on the sidelines for six months.
Now, almost a year after losing his first-team spot to De Gea, Asenjo has been given the all-clear by the Atletico medical team and is ready to make his long-awaited return to action. The problem though is that unlike back in 2009, when De Gea was regarded as a hot prospect with a bright future, the current Atletico number one has international call-ups to his name and has regularly impressed both in La Liga and in Europe. Just as big clubs were keeping track of Asenjo while he shone at Valladolid, the likes of Manchester United are reportedly interested in De Gea’s signature after seeing him sparkle for Atletico.
Unlike Asenjo though, De Gea does not look like he will be moving on anytime soon, creating a potential problem for the assumed Atletico number two when is fit enough to compete for a first-team spot. Asenjo’s unfortunate absence has given De Gea the opportunity to prove himself and the former Valladolid man will have to work incredibly hard now if he is going to force his way back into the starting eleven in La Liga. While that may not be beyond him, considering the immense talent he displayed during his time with La Pucela, there is also the question of whether Quique and Atletico would prefer to see a home-grown talent grow rather than let him warm the bench and risk losing him.
If the decision is made to stick with De Gea regularly then Asenjo may well have to consider his future again – a move that would more than likely spark plenty of interest from around Europe. On the other hand, he could stay with Atletico and continue to battle De Gea for the number one spot, hoping that the youngster either suffers a dip in form or is perhaps ruled out through injury. Opting to remain at the club could well result in plenty of time spent on the bench though – not ideal for a goalkeeper recovering from injury and desperately in need of match practice to refine his talents.
Perhaps the most significant point for Atletico is that not only do they have De Gea and Asenjo now, they also have another talented youngster in Joel. The 20-year-old has made just a couple of appearances for the first-team so far but, like both of the other goalkeepers at the club, it is believed that he will have a bright future ahead of him. His recent rise into the squad might well sway the Atletico board into believing that they could indeed do without Asenjo – after all, both he and Joel will more than likely play second-fiddle to De Gea in the years ahead.
As of yet, Asenjo himself has not made any comment regarding his future but the remainder of the season could be crucial in determining whether he stays with Atletico or not. Should he manage to dislodge De Gea as number one and win back the gloves then there is no reason why he cannot go on and be the star at the club for years to come, however, should his outings in the next six months be limited to the Copa del Rey and less significant matches, he may well have to consider a future away from Atletico.