It has been nearly 700 days since Athletic Club last made a transfer signing. That may sound like a terrible thing, but the Lions have qualified for European competition for four consecutive seasons and last year they promoted three youth stars that went on to prove they can play at a high level in the Primera. This summer a few more are training with the first team and, just like last year, it looks like they have made quite a case to continue with the senior squad.
Unai Nunez is perhaps the most telling situation. The center-back was the best and most important player for Bilbao Athletic last season and it was no surprise when Cuco Ziganda called him up to train with the first team this summer. The 20-year-old is tall, strong, physical, and excellent in the air. In fact, he took Yeray’s place with the reserves last season and seemed every bit a mirror image of his counterpart. Like Yeray, Nunez turned an important corner last season when it became obvious that his passing game was improving and that has made him an even more exciting prospect.
So far during training Nunez has been tested in a special way. He has almost solely practiced as Aymeric Laporte’s partner in drills and scrimmages and has looked very strong. Not only does he look capable beside Laporte, he looks solid just by himself against the best players in the squad. It looks very clear that Ziganda has high hopes for the defender and is giving him every chance to earn a place in the first team.
As exciting as Nunez has been, he isn’t the only Lezama star who is making waves regarding a possible role under Cuco Ziganda. Enter Inigo Cordoba.
Cordoba’s chances of making the first team took a really positive turn when he signed a contract extension last week which increased his wages and release clause. With the Lions seemingly ending their pursuit of Alex Berenguer, the extension seemed to hint that the club was betting on Cordoba being the one to provide depth on the wing in the upcoming season. So far, he has showed that he may very well be ready for a role at the San Mames when the new seasons kicks off.
According to a report from Javier Beltran of AS, some decisions regarding the two starlets have already been made. Unless something changes, Cordoba will stay in the first team squad and have a role under Cuco Ziganda. Additionally, Nunez will not leave the club on loan. If he doesn’t carve out a place in the first team, he will return to Bilbao Athletic where he will be easily accessible to Ziganda if needed. He may even start the year with the senior squad until Yeray returns from his chemotherapy treatments.
As always, the future is very bright at Athletic Club and Lezama continues to produce exciting and talented footballers. Nunez and Cordoba could very well become first team players for the foreseeable future, and that doesn’t even account for Asier Villalibre who is also competing for a place in the team. The Lions are still working hard to sign someone like Mikel Merino, but fans can also rest easy knowing that Lezama is still preparing young stars for a future at the San Mames.