After a disappointing year on loan with Leganes last season Unai López’s career with Athletic Club looked bleak. The midfielder didn’t seem to be able to stand up to the physical demands of top flight football and many began to worry that he had been thrown into the first team before he was ready. In hopes of taking pressure off and easing him in the club decided to send him out on loan again this year, but to Rayo Vallecano in the second division where he could compete for regular minutes and continue his development.
That decision has worked perfectly for López who has become one of the most important players for Rayo Vallecano and now looks primed and ready for La Liga. The 22-year-old has played in 31 league games for the club, missing out only twice, and has been a focal point of the system playing as an attacking midfielder or sometimes in a role out wide. He’s scored three goals and provided just as many assists, but the best part of his game is what the stats can’t show. He is pulling the strings and dictating play at a high level and finally showing the same spectacular footballing ability that he did at Lezama.
López seems to have taken that next step in his career, but there is just one problem. Finding a place in the Athletic Club squad is going to be extremely difficult. Right now players like Raúl García, Mikel San José, Ander Iturraspe, Beñat, Mikel Rico, and Mikel Vesga are all standing in the way, and that doesn’t count out new arrivals like Dani Garcia or perhaps Mikel Merino. However, the 22-year-old is full of confidence and ready to fight for a place.
In a recent interview he was asked whether or not he thinks he will have a place at Athletic next season. He said, “I want to earn promotion with Rayo, and then a place at Athletic”. In the past the midfielder has been quiet but lately he has sounded like someone that has something to prove. He knows that earning a spot at the San Mamés isn’t going to be easy, but this season shows that he is ready for that fight and that should have fans excited.