Is Manchester United's Anthony Martial Good Enough to Play for Real Madrid?

Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2016

Manchester United's Anthony Martial, left, scores past Stoke's Glenn Whelan during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Stoke at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

The career trajectory of the very best players in the world often follows a similar script. Look at Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and more.

There is the breakthrough and raw potential demonstrated at what can politely be termed a club with obvious limitations—Sporting Lisbon, Ajax, Southampton and Dinamo Zagreb in the examples above.

Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale (C) is congratulated by Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and Real Madrid's Croatian midfielder Luka Modric after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Madrid CF vs RC Deportivo

Then comes the move to a bigger club, which they make an outright success of and are adored by the fans. Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur being the examples here.

Although fans of those particular clubs won’t want to hear it—United and Liverpool especially—there are more attractive destinations than those two English titans these days, with the very best always seemingly headed for the same place, the top of La Liga.

If you’re good, then Barcelona and Real Madrid will want to get their hands on you eventually, and that is something that Manchester United fans are starting to worry will happen to their current shining light, whom they signed from Monaco in the summer.

Following yet another impressive performance and a goal in United’s 3-0 win over Stoke City on Tuesday night, Anthony Martial was the name on the lips of United’s fans, although not for the greatest of reasons.

As reported by Metro and doubtless chastened by the experience they had with Ronaldo (and perhaps soon David De Gea), United fans are worried that the 20-year-old’s excellent displays are attracting Real Madrid to his massive potential, with several taking to Twitter to claim that it’s not going to be long before they see the forward pulling on the famous white shirt.

Is that true, though?

Manchester United's French striker Anthony Martial celebrates scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on February 2, 2016. / AFP
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

There is no doubt about Martial’s quality and the fact that he has settled into English football life as well as you can expect a young player to do.

However, there is a sense that the France international is still learning his craft at the moment and that he’s not quite ready to enter the goldfish bowl that is life at Real Madrid.

Again looking at the examples above, it took truly stellar displays for those players to eventually earn their big moves.

Ronaldo hit 68 goals in his final two seasons at United before earning his move to Madrid, while Bale, Suarez and Modric all had the best campaigns of their careers directly before their switches to Spanish football.

Crucially, too, all of them were significantly older than Martial is now, thereby gaining the experience with which to handle both the change in environment and the pressure that a mega transfer would bring.

Cristiano Ronaldo (R) of Manchester United celebrates after scoring the second goal from the penalty spot  during the Premier league football match against Everton at Old Trafford, Manchester, north-west England, 23 December 2007. AFP PHOTO/ANDREW YATES

While Martial has been very good this season, he’s still not been great, and you can see the areas of his game that he needs to keep working on. He can appear a little one-dimensional at times.

The idea of seeing him in a Madrid shirt is a tempting one, and it would seem to make sense with fellow Frenchman Zinedine Zidane at the helm, but he needs at least one more season at United—Champions League qualification or not—in order to fully realise his potential before making the step up which many would appear to feel is inevitable.

Who knows, perhaps an outstanding UEFA Euro 2016 will accelerate matters, but right now, it appears much more likely that Real would sign a player such as Eden Hazard—who has gone through the aforementioned steps with Lille and Chelsea—in the summer rather than Martial.

They’ll keep their eye on the United youngster because, quite frankly, they would be negligent if they didn’t, but those fans worrying that they are already seeing the closing chapters of his Old Trafford career shouldn’t be too concerned just yet.

They should just enjoy watching Martial while they can, which should be for another 18 months at least.