It has been a whirlwind of a season for Asier Villalibre. The striker began the year playing with Bilbao Athletic in the Segunda B, but was called up to the first team for a handful of games in the middle of the season. Then, he was sent back down before moving to Numancia on loan in the Segunda for the last month. The 19-year-old is certainly a player to be excited about and he spoke about his loan move in an interview with Radio Marca Bilbao.“It has been short, but it was very intense because of what we were playing for. I am very grateful for all the confidence the coach placed in me. I wish I could say goodbye with a goal. I am quite happy to have helped the team achieve their goal of staying in the league.”
Villalibre was then asked if he can be the player to one day take over for Aritz Aduriz. The Lezama product admitted that it would be a huge achievement to be the starting striker, but that he has a lot to improve. In the end, he hopes that Aduriz can continue playing at this level for years to come.
“To be the number 9 at Athletic is huge. I am very young and this year I was playing in the Segunda B. Little by little, I have worked hard and improved my game. Whatever comes next, will come. I have a lot to do before I can play like Aduriz. There are many steps ahead of me, but I hope Aduriz continues scoring goals like this for many more years.”
The striker they call “The Buffalo” was able to make his first team debut under Ernesto Valverde and says that it is a memory he will never forget. Making the jump to the Primera is certainly difficult and he says that you can see the difference by simply attending training sessions.“Making my debut was a dream come true. Even before arriving at Lezama as a child I was an Athletic fan and they are the club I have in my heart. You never imagine actually playing at the San Mames with so many people looking at you. It is a very good memory. The jump isn’t easy. You can see the change of pace, level, and everything else. But you can also see it when training with the Primera players. I am happy with my performance. I have all that I could give and I hope to get more chances.”
In the end, Villalibre said that he is excited to spend the preseason with the first team along with Inigo Cordoba and Unai Nunez. The trio played under Cuco Ziganda last year, but he doesn’t believe that will have an influence on whether or not he stays with the first team. There were also rumors that Athletic wanted to sign Jon Bautista who would have been direct competition for Villalibre, but he says that it is just part of the game and you have to keep improving.
“I am very excited for the preseason. Cordoba, Unai Nunez, and I have just been with him. He knows us, but that doesn’t mean anything. We have to demonstrate that we can play at this level and keep working hard. He will be the one to decide. Ziganda is a great coach and an even better person. There are always rumors like these, you have to understand that it is part of football. You have to look at yourself and try to improve.”
Athletic Club will officially begin preseason training on 3 July. The Lions will play the first leg of their Europa League qualifier on 27 July so they will only have a few weeks to prepare for their huge match. Cuco Ziganda has coached a large number of youth players whom he will not give the chance to prove they deserve a place in the first team. Still, earning a spot will not be easy and Ziganda wants the strongest possible squad going into his first season at the San Mames.