Urtzi Iriondo was one of the key players for Cuco Ziganda while at Bilbao Athletic, but after being relegated back to the Segunda B it became necessary for him to leave on loan to continue his development. Last summer the left-back was sent to Elche in the Second Division with hopes of playing regular minutes and making his case for the Athletic first team. As the season progressed it became very clear that Iriondo was not going to see very much action.
That has all changed over the past few months. Due to injuries to other players, as well as some poor performances, Iriondo has started the last nine games for Elche and has completely taken over the position. To put that into perspective, he had only made three other appearances all season. Holding on to his starting role has taken a lot of work and it is clearly paying off.
The 22-year-old has always been a player that basis his game around controlling the ball and understanding positioning. He isn’t going to beat anyone with physicality or speed, but he knows how to put himself in the right places to take the ball off of opponents or cause problems for them. He is a smart footballer and he knows when to push forward and when to remain in defense. Everything considered, he will continue to grow and develop as he faces stronger competition.
Iriondo’s emergence and improvement make him an interesting project. He will be retuning from loan at the end of this season and should be fighting for a place in the first team. Right now there is a lot of competition in his way with Mikel Balenziaga, Inigo Lekue, and Enric Saborit all putting in time at left-back. However, Saborit’s contract expires in June and there is a good chance that he may not receive an extension. If that is the case, Iriondo could be in line for the opening. It should also be mentioned that Iriondo is also out of contract in a few months so it will be up to Athletic to offer him an extension. A lot will be decided over the next few months, but if Urtzi Iriondo wants to be in the first team next season he must continue playing at this high level and getting regular minutes.