Goal.com takes a look at Sergio Asenjo, who is dubbed 'the new Iker Casillas' and has just signed for Atletico Madrid.
With first-choice keepers Ludovic Butelle suspended and veteran Alberto Lopez Fernandez injured, coach Jose Luis Mendilibar needed a custodian for the league match against Villarreal, having decided to grant Asenjo his eagerly-anticipated debut in the top-flight. The young keeper could not have asked for a better match, as a 2-0 home win against the Yellow Submarine and a handful of good saves in front of the club's supporters gave Asenjo a heroic status among fans.
It was expected that Mendilibar would only use Asenjo until Alberto was fully recovered from his injury, but the truth is that the 18-year-old remained in Valladolid's starting XI, having conceded just one goal in his first five matches. He would play 24 games in the season, conceding 29 goals.
In the summer of 2008, Valladolid signed Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar, ranked tenth in the world according to the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS). Villar arrived at the club prepared to play in La Liga but he would be merely back-up to Asenjo.
The 2008-09 season started very well for Valladolid, who appeared to be in the race for a spot in the Europa League. However, an injury to Asenjo's left knee forced him to undergo surgery and be sidelined for three months. The effect on the team was immediate: Valladolid moved down the table several places and saw themselves in a battle to avoid relegation.
Asenjo returned to action just 11 games before the end of the season but Valladolid's poor form continued. In the last match of the season, they met Betis in a clash between two teams on the verge of relegation, in which the loser would be thrown into the second division. With just one minute left on the clock and 1-1 on the scoreboard, Asenjo made an impressive save to deny Ricardo Oliveira the goal and keep Valladolid in the first league.
After this impressive season, Asenjo was linked to a host of clubs across Europe, including Barcelona, Aston Villa and Fiorentina. But he decided to join Atletico Madrid on July 8 in a reported €5 million move. At the Vicente Calderon, Asenjo will have guaranteed regular action and he will be able to play in the Champions League.
At the age of 20, Asenjo has already won honors for his country. In 2006, he was part of the Spain side that took home the bronze in the Under-17 European Championship, where he played every game as a starter. One year later, in the Under-19 European Championship, Asenjo played the semi-final, decided through a penalty shootout, in which he saved two penalties, and the final of the competition, where he kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Greece.
Asenjo, currently an Under-21 international for Spain, knows it will be very hard for him to play for his country at senior level, given the presence of veteran Iker Casillas. However, he is a strong favourite to replace the Real Madrid star in a few years' time.
Name: Sergio Asenjo Andrés
Birthplace: Palencia, Spain
Height: 1,89 mts
Weight: 81 kg
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