Five players that are overlooked in Athletic Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao’s five Underrated players.
Everyone knows that Athletic Bilbao has such an amazing cantera youth system that always able to produce quality youth players.
Despite their self-imposed rule of only signing Basque players, they have been able to produce amazing players like Ander Herrera, Javi Martinez and recently Inaki Williams and Aymeric Laporte.
Inaki Williams and Aymeric Laporte are the famous Basque players in recent times, but however, they are stealing way too much limelight of other amazing youngsters. Basque country is the region covering Eastern Spain and Northern France. It is quite amazing to be one of the only three clubs other than Real Madrid and Barcelona not to be relegated from the Spain first division. Let us look at the 5 amazing Athletic Bilbao players:
Yeray(22) who was born in Barakaldo joined Athletic Bilbao youth setup in 2008 aging only 13 years old and swiftly in 5 years, he made his senior debut in Spanish 4th division with CD Baskonia.
Due to his great improvement, he immediately promoted to reserves and able to compete in Segunda Division which is 3rd division of Spain. He diligently trained hard and impressed the main team’s manager Ernesto Valverde in the pre-season of the current season.
His first competitive debut came in the Europa League group stage versus Sassuolo and in the league facing Valencia replacing Eneko Boveda. So far Yeray has been amazingly so consistent and appeared in all but three matches of Athletic Bilbao in all competitions. Sadly and unfortunate that on 23rd December 2016, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and right now going through the recovery process.
With many big club vultures circling Laporte, Yeray might be their long term answer at the back.
Strengths: Confident, Calm, Versatile
Weakness: positioning, Lack of pace , the poor header of the ball.
If you do watch La Liga often, you might be familiar with Athletic Bilbao’s 23 years old Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. In his early years, he played his early senior debut in 3rd division with CD Baskonia.
To develop him further, Athletic Bilbao allowed him to go on loan at ponferradina and Real Valladolid in Spain 2nd division. With good persistence in attitude and training, Arrizabalaga managed to get promoted to the main squad for La Liga match versus Getafe in 2012 but did not able to feature on from the bench.
After that he had to settle for reserves matches with Athletic Bilbao making his debut on 16 February 2013 facing UD Logrones in Segunda Division B. After 5 months in ponferradina and then Real Valladolid for a season-long loan.
Happy news awaited Arrizabalaga after coming back from the loan and he was included in the first team. Despite he was the third choice behind Gorka Iraizoz and Iago Herrerin, he able to be picked on September 2016 facing Deportivo La Coruna and was at the winning end with a shutout.
Arrizabala, for now, did not get any Spain national cap, but it is just a matter of when then if. However it will be very hard to beat David De Gea to the first choice, but if any dip in form of De Gea, Kepa can instantly be the first choice of Spain. Kepa Arrazabalaga featured for Spain under 18, Spain under 19 ( winning U19 UEFA European Championship). He could not be called for FIFA U20 World Cup due to an injury but still called into Spain Under 21 team in the year 2013.
Strengths: Can be better in passing, not being alert coming out.
Weakness: Strong in air, Composed
Hailed as the next heir for Aritz Aduriz, Villalibre is with Athletic Bilbao since the year 2011 aged just 14 years old. He made his debut aged 15 years old and scored with CD Baskonia in the 2013/2014 campaign.
Impressing for Baskonia with 20 goals which are in the 3rd division, Villalibre brought forward to Athletic Bilbao reserves in the 2nd division. He made his debut on 24 August as a substitute for Gorka Santamaria against Girona.
The coaches at Athletic Bilbao senior side and the reserves side aware of his potential and quite amazed at his achievement of being second youngest goalscorer for the reserves sides aging just 17 years old! The youngest goalscorer is Ander Garitano who scored 143 days earlier than Villalibre. Shockingly on 3rd December 2016, Villalibre made it into the first team squad for Basque derby against Eibar replacing Aritz Aduriz who was suspended.
So far, he made an assist for Iker Muniain in La Liga vs Eibar and then on 8th December, he made debut in the continental competition in Europa League group match against Rapid Vienna, coming on and providing an assist as a late substitute. With Aritz Aduriz is aging and near retirement, it is amazing to feel that Athletic Bilbao is ready with his replacement striker with Villalibre.
Strengths: Having amazing acceleration, great vision, great finisher
Weakness: Off the ball movement, heading
Inigo Lekue is Athletic Bilbao’s rightback and an one time Spanish International callup player. He was acquired from Danok Bat CF youth system and was developed at CD Baskonia in the 4th division.
After just a year there he promoted to Athletic Bilbao C in 3rd division and again in two years time he was promoted to Athletic Bilbao B side in the 2nd division. Due to leading the reserve side to La Liga(could not get promoted because of the senior team in La Liga), Lekue was so impressive that he promoted to the main first team in La Liga.
He was brought on for Sabin in Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona. His first league appearance came in a loss against Eibar. So far he has accumulated 30 first team appearances.
He scored his first goal in La Liga and also for the Athletic Bilbao senior side against Granada. With his rising potential, Athletic Bilbao tied him to a contract extension until 2019.
Strengths: Amazing tackles, disciplined, Work Rate
Weakness: Crossing, Dribbling
Despite always in a periphery of the squad, Aketxe is a good rotational attacking midfielder for most La Liga sides. He joined Athletic Bilbao Lezama( training ground) in 2003 a
He joined Athletic Bilbao Lezama( training ground) in 2003 aging just 10 and he trains with CD Baskonia in the 4th division. Fast forward a year, he immediately promoted to reserves in the 3rd division of Spain and playing all the league games in his second season.
After getting good reviews for his performances, Aketxe promoted to La Liga squad in December 2014 and came in his first match as professional on 17 September 2015 against Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League.
He also scored his first goal in La Liga on May 2015 winning Elche. But due to the tight spots, Aketxe have to be demoted to B-side to help the B-side avoid relegation from 2nd division and also improve himself with first team chances. Ager Aketxe still got a lot to prove but always been interesting prospects.
Weakness: Dribbling, Strength of player, Not composed enough.
Strengths: Visionary, Off the ball, good Crosser.