Unai Lopez and Kike Sola Will Get The Chance To Prove Themselves This Preseason

At the end of June Athletic Club will see several players return to Bilbao after spending the season on loan. Some of these players have already carved out a path to to the first team, while others already know they will not feature in Cuco Ziganda’s plans. Others are still up in the air at this point, namely Unai Lopez and Kike Sola. According to reports, both will get the chance to prove themselves during the preseason.

Kike Sola

Kike Sola will get the chance to make his case during the preseason (Image via DEIA)

Kike Sola made his professional debut under Cuco Ziganda at Osasuna back in 2006 and went on to carve out a regular role in the squad. However, after joining Athletic in  2013, the striker has barely featured and spent time on loan at Middlesbrough, Getafe, and Numancia. While at Numancia this year he only managed to play a total of 374 minutes and was not counted on when injuries hit the club at the end of the year. Instead, Numancia brought in Bilbao Athletic’s Asier Villalibre who served as the starting forward.

With only one year remaining on his contract, this is Sola’s last chance to earn a place at Athletic. Many expected him to leave for good this summer, but Cuco Ziganda wants to see him in training and friendlies for himself before making an ultimate decision according to Javier Ortiz de Lazcano of El Correo. It should be noted that the Lions are in need of strengthening their options behind Aritz Aduriz, but the 31-year-old will have to do a lot if he is to remain at the San Mames.

Unai Lopez is a much different case and is in an unlucky situation. The 21-year-old spent time in the first team under Ernesto Valverde but returned to Bilbao Athletic during their campaign in the Segunda. Last season he spent the year on loan at Leganes, however he did not play a regular role in the team. Still, he is one of the jewels of Lezama and seen as a fantastic product that could one day take over for Benat in the midfield.

Unai Lopez

Unai Lopez will fight for his place in the first team (Image via Mundo Deportivo)

Cuco Ziganda is very familiar with Lopez from their days together at Bilbao Athletic and he has played a big role in the midfielder’s development. Ziganda wants to see Lopez in training with the first team before making any decision about where he will play next season according to Javi Beltran of AS. But that doesn’t mean convincing the manager will be easy. Right now Benat, Mikel San Jose, Ander Iturraspe, Mikel Rico, and Javi Eraso are sitting in front of Lopez. Also, Ager Aketxe and Mikel Vesga will be returning from loan and the Lions are pushing to sign Mikel Merino. Lopez is an immensely talented midfielder, but Athletic’s midfield is so deep that he might just not have a place in the team.

Kike Sola and Unai Lopez represent two completely different stages of a footballing career. Sola is on the wrong side of 30 and just not playing at the level to compete in the Primera, while Lopez is a young star who is trying to overcome competition within the team to carve out a role in the first team. Cuco Ziganda will have a lot of squad decisions to make this summer and he is willing to give every play a chance to show themselves before deciding on anything. In truth, it is very unlikely that Sola will stay in Bilbao, but Lopez does have a chance of convincing his former manager that he deserves a place at the San Mames.

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