Going into the summer it was clear that Kuko Ziganda had a surplus at the striker position. With Aritz Aduriz, Iñaki Williams, and Sabin Merino all vying for minutes up front, players like Kike Sola and Asier Villalibre were not going to have enough chances. In a recent interview Ziganda admitted that one of the two would definitely be leaving this summer, and even went as far to say that both could be making an exit. Due to his age, all signs pointed to Villalibre leaving on loan in order to play regular minutes and that move has now come to fruition.
On Sunday Athletic Club officially announced that Asier Villalibre has been loaned to Real Valladolid for the 2017-2018 season. The goal is for the 19-year-old to grow and develop in the Segunda this year where he will hopefully play regular minutes for Valladolid.
On paper, Villalibre should be able to compete for a starting role at Real Valladolid due to the current makeup of the squad. Right now the club has only one true center-forward in the team, Jaime Mata, although winger Iban Salvador has started to become more of a striker as well. Athletic’s goal is loaning out Villalibre is to get him regular minutes so his participation level was likely negotiated with Real Valladolid before agreeing to the transfer. Other Athletic strikers such as Aritz Aduriz also spent time at Valladolid and Villalibre will be hoping to emulate their success.
It remains to be seen what will happen with Kike Sola. Now that Villalibre is gone, the 31-year-old could be kept at Athletic to provide depth and continue competing for a role at the San Mamés. He has spent time with three different clubs on loan over the last few seasons and is now in the final year of his contract. If Sola does leave Athletic this summer it will almost certainly be for good. There still is a chance that he stays in the time, but as of now he doesn’t stand to feature very much for the Basque giants.