After not signing a single new player last summer, Athletic Club wants to bring some new life into the squad. The Lions have had their sights set on Mikel Merino and Alex Berenguer for over a year now, but there is one player who has been followed for over four years. Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal is still one of Athletic Club’s biggest transfer targets and new manager Cuco Ziganda may be the key to finally getting the deal done.
In a recent interview, Monreal was asked about his thoughts on Ziganda and had the following to say. “Cuco is the man who helped me become a professional and his influence helped me get to where I am today. If he called me [to propose a transfer] I would listen to him, but I am also happy at Arsenal.”
Cuco Ziganda coached Monreal at Osasuna’s reserve team over a decade ago and, after taking over as manager of the first team, gave the defender his senior debut. Athletic midfielder Raul Garcia is also one of Monreal’s best friends and could help convince him to make the switch to the San Mames. The Lions have yet to make any official bid for the 31-year-old, but the interest is certainly real.
Arsenal are expected to sign Schalke left-back Sead Kolasinac this summer which would provide strong competition for Monreal. However, Arsene Wenger staying at the club will make things difficult for Athletic’s potential deal. He has been Monreal’s biggest fan over the last four years and may still be unwilling to part with the Basque defender. At this point, only time will tell what the future holds for Monreal at Arsenal.
If Athletic cannot make the Monreal signing happen, they do have other options to strengthen the left-back position. Enric Saborit is expected to leave the club this summer, but Urtzi Iriondo will return from his loan spell at Elche. The 22-year-old has made great strides at Elche over the last few months and has become a regular in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, Bilbao Athletic standout Andoni Lopez could get the chance to spend the preseason with the first team and many believe that he is on the cusp of carving out a path in the senior squad. He was one of Ziganda’s most consistent players last season and has grown into a really exciting young prospect. Even though the club has options in house, signing Monreal would clearly be a huge deal. The 31-year-old would provide immediately depth in defense and his veteran leadership would be invaluable.