Two seasons ago Sabin Merino was promoted to the first team, which surprised the majority of fans. The young forward had never truly stood out among his peers at Lezama, but under Cuco Ziganda he turned a corner at Bilbao Athletic, scoring 18 goals in his last season with the reserves. In his first season in the top flight he managed to score 7 times and some even began to liken him to a young Aritz Aduriz due to his playing style. However, an injury late that season carried over to this past campaign and his form really began to suffer.
Merino began this year somewhat healthy and played relatively regular minutes. However, another injury sidelined the forward. Merino only featured three times between January and February, then missed two months before making his return at the end of the season. The 25-year-old was finally healthy again, but had missed so much time that Ernesto Valverde was not going to risk him in such important games to finish off the season.
The Lezama product will now have the entire summer to complete his recovery and get back into the best physical shape for the upcoming campaign. After missing so much time players will often lose their pace and stamina, which will be vital for the forward to recover. That will certainly help him get back into the rotation, but Cuco Ziganda becoming the new manager may play an even bigger role in Sabin Merino returning to his best.
Ziganda was the manager that believed Merino could become a great forward and gave him every opportunity to succeed at Bilbao Athletic. While playing under Cuco, he was able to become a consistent goalscorer and really broke out and made a name for himself. Without Ziganda’s coaching, Merino may have never made it to the first team. Now under the guidance of his former coach, as well as finally being healthy, the 25-year-old may be ready to break out once again. At one point Merino was acting at Aritz Aduriz’s backup and that is the role in which he found the most success. This could actually turn out to be Ziganda’s plan for the forward. Of course, Ziganda could have other plans now that he is coaching the first team, but initially this looks like the perfect situation for Sabin Merino to get back to playing his best football once again.