PAUL SCHOLES says Alejandro Garnacho reminds him of a young Cristiano Ronaldo, while World Cup-winning team-mate Lisandro Martinez reckons his talent has no ceiling.
And, after a midweek starring role in the FA Cup, boss Erik ten Hag claimed few players in football can match his dribbling skills.
Yet, although Garnacho, 18, is the brightest of Manchester United’s young stars, there was a time when the tarnish threatened to overshadow the twinkle.
It came when the Argentine was not only rated Atletico Madrid’s hottest rookie but also their biggest rebel.
So much so that one of Atleti’s top youth coaches was given a new role purely to ensure the golden boy stayed on the straight and narrow.
Jesus Adolfo Marcos was in charge of the club’s Under-19s, when he was suddenly moved to an age group three years younger.
There was a specific reason.
For although there were no doubts about Garnacho’s ability, ones about his attitude were growing, and it needed a more experienced head to step in.
Marcos, still a key figure at the club, revealed: “When they moved me I thought I was being demoted, but was told it was actually a promotion.
“They wanted me to coach the best young player at the club. That was my mission — and also my biggest challenge.
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“Alejandro was a ‘street boy,’ from a suburb of Getafe, and straight away we decided to move him to the academy hotel, because he was not a good student.
“He was smarter than the rest of the boys, but became problematic… he was a rascal and creating war inside the hotel.
“He’d sneak food into the room, sweets and stuff, and would hide his phone and be on it late at night. He was also top of his group at breaking the rules!”
And when Garnacho, then only 15, played his first game under his new coach, it was far from an auspicious start — he hardly had time to break sweat before he was hooked.
Marcos said: “We were away to Rayo Majadahonda and I was forced to take him off after ten minutes. There was clearly an attitude problem.
“His instructions were to run and make an effort because they pressed a lot but Alejandro was hopeless and effortless.
“I substituted him and in the first attack without him we scored, ended up winning 6-0 and the whole coaching staff was expecting a negative reaction, complaint or indiscipline.
“But it was the total opposite. Alejandro reacted with an incredible maturity, didn’t complain and worked very hard all week.
“He is an intelligent boy who knew he was in the wrong and didn’t have any grounds to kick up a fuss. He has that thing special players have — they can be a rebel.”
It was a massive turning point for the Madrid-born attacker, who qualifies for Argentina through his mother.
Another came when Marcos put his temperament to the test in brutal fashion.
He said: “In that team we had a very hard defender called Carlos Ballesteros, who I would put up against him in training sessions.
“Carlos was a no-nonsense player and took it to the limit with some pretty bad tackles but Alejandro drove him crazy.
“That generation was practically unbeatable — and he was different to the rest of them.
“He was one you always knew could win games for you.
“I still remember our last game before the pandemic against Union Adarve, a really tough side, and we won 8-0.
“Alejandro was stellar that day, awesome. He scored two, had three assists and I was telling everyone, ‘This boy is going to be a superstar’.”
United thought so, and plucked him from Madrid in 2020 despite Atleti’s best attempts to keep him.
Garnacho has made such progress in his breakthrough season that he already boasts 27 appearances and has scored four goals.
And for all Marcos’ disappointment at seeing him leave, he reckons he has the perfect boss now.
He said: “Ten Hag worked at Ajax where there is an environment of working with young players and will know how to deal with him better than anyone.
“He’s the best coach for him and if Alejandro stays fit, fresh and looks after himself, he will be a massive player for United