Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio has dismissed suggestions he is unhappy at Real Madrid, saying he is at the "best club in the world."
The 21-year-old started the season in sensational form but has found minutes tougher to come by in recent weeks, prompting speculation about his future at the Santiago Bernabeu.
However, speaking to Club del Deportista (h/t Jack Rathborn of the Daily Mirror), Asensio said he is ready to battle for a starting spot at Madrid.
"It is difficult to manage a squad as good as our one, but [Real manager Zinedine] Zidane knows he can count on me," he said. "I work hard every day to earn more minutes, but I am aware of where I am. I am at the best club in the world, and I am happy at Real Madrid."
As Rathborn noted, one of the clubs linked with a move for Asensio has been Manchester United, with Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho said to be ready to spend big in midseason. The youngster has a £442 million release clause in his contract.
The midfielder has made nine starts in La Liga this term, with his most recent coming in the 5-0 win over Sevilla on December 9. In Saturday's Clasico showdown with Barcelona, he was brought on for the final 18 minutes. Marca provided the statistics behind his starts in 2017:
MARCA in English @MARCAinENGLISH
Marco Asensio wants more game time at @realmadriden... He's started only 22 out of 63 games in 2017. 😬 https://t.co/bnyibclul5 https://t.co/crNyvl34lg2017-12-28 21:40:01
At the beginning of the campaign, Asensio appeared intent on making himself undroppable.
In the Spanish Super Cup clashes with Barcelona, he was excellent. He also grabbed a brilliant brace in the 2-2 draw with Valencia on August 27. Stationed on the right flank, Asensio's ability to cut infield, fire off shots and link with team-mates gave Madrid a refreshing attacking edge.
There was a buzz about what he would be able to offer throughout the campaign, and some illustrious comparisons were made, as Goal UK relayed:
Goal UK @GoalUK
Zinedine Zidane is a BIG fan of Marco Asensio's left foot... 🙌 https://t.co/2EtUny2YIt2017-9-12 07:56:32
However, inconsistency crept into his game, and the youngster finds himself on the bench most weeks.
That shouldn't come as much of a surprise. After all, the Spain international is in the infancy of his career. And for any young footballer, especially those who operate in the role Asensio does, fluctuations in form are natural.
There is an argument to suggest Asensio is worthy of more game time, though, especially with Madrid looking a little static in attack as of late. Plus, as WhoScored.com demonstrated, when he has been on the pitch this term, he's tended to create big chances:
Marco Asensio: Only Lionel Messi (12) has created more clear-cut goalscoring chances than @marcoasensio10 (8) in La Liga this season Full player stats -- https://t.co/nt6XeVcNgo https://t.co/iid2tSLiRx2017-12-14 17:30:01
If there were any sign of Asensio being dissatisfied with life in the Spanish capital, it would be no shock to see the vultures start to circle. After all, he's showcased much promise in Madrid colours.
With that in mind, Real would likely resist any offer that came in for Asensio. It means any sides that want him would likely have to trigger the extraordinary clause in his deal to get their man.