The season is now starting to draw to a close and many clubs across Spain still have a lot to fight for. As we speak, Athletic Club are still in contention for seventh place in the La Liga table, although reaching that goal will be extremely difficult. Meanwhile, there are a few Lions who are out on loan that are playing big roles in their teams and some are even fighting for promotion to the top flight. This summer will see those players return to Bilbao where they will once again have to wait and see what their futures hold. With that being said, let’s take a look at the five players away on loan and discuss what is going to happen next for them.
At one point Urtzi Iriondo was seen as a future star at left-back. Many thought it was just a matter of time before he was challenging Mikel Balenziaga in the first team, but his development began to sputter and he has not been able to break into the senior squad. This summer he was sent on loan to Granada who were hoping to challenge for promotion back to La Liga, but things have not gone well at all for the 23-year-old.
So far this season Iriondo has only played in one match in the Copa del Rey and hasn’t even seen the pitch in league play. In fact, he has only been in the squad for three league games which is extremely worrying. Granada’s Álex Martínez has been absolutely solid this year and that has kept the Lezama product relegated to the bench. When Iriondo returns this summer there is no reason to believe that he will be able to challenge for place in the team with Balenziaga, Ganea, and Andoni Lopez all standing in his way. He may not even train with the first team. For now, another loan spell or a permanent move away looks to be coming next for Urtzi Iriondo.
Like Iriondo, Etxeberria was also once viewed as the future of the right-back position, especially when Andoni Iraola left a few years ago. The Lezama product did spent some time training with the first team but was unable to break into it over the years. He was an integral part of Kuko Ziganda’s Bilbao Athletic squad that earned promotion to the Segunda a few years ago, but when they were relegated it became necessary to leave on loan. Last year he joined Real Valladolid on loan and barely saw the field so this past summer he made the move to Numancia and things have gone a bit better.
Etxeberria has featured in 23 league games and 5 in the Copa del Rey, splitting time with Unai Medina at the right-back position. The 23-year-old has actually played rather well in a team that are serious contenders to earn promotion to the Primera. Still, as things stand it doesn’t look like he will have much of a chance with the first team over the summer. Right now Oscar De Marcos, Iñigo Lekue, and the incoming Ander Capa stand in his way, along with Bilbao Athletic standouts Jesus Areso and Jon Sillero. Take into account the fact that Etxeberria’s contract ends after the current season and all signs point to an exit.
The great hope Asier Villalibre. Since making his debut under Ernesto Valverde last season the striker has been labeled the next Aritz Aduriz, something he doesn’t like personally. It is easy to understand why. He scored a lot of goals at the youth level for Lezama and with Bilbao Athletic, but there just hasn’t been a regular place for him in the first team as of yet. Over the summer he was sent to Real Valladolid on loan and, due to lack of playing time, returned in January and was sent to Lorca for the remainder of the season.
Since making the switch in January Villalibre has featured in all but one game for Lorca and scored his first league goal of the season a last weekend in a 3-2 win over Granada. Getting regular playing time is a great thing for Villalibre considering he is still only 20 years old. When he returns to Athletic this summer he could get the chance to train with the first team again due to a lack of strikers in the team. With Kike Sola’s contract expiring only Aritz Aduriz remains, although Bilbao Athletic star Gorka Guruzeta will also train with the first team this summer. Villalibre is still very young and has a lot of development left, but he still controls his future.
Alex Remiro has lived in Kepa Arrizabalaga’s shadow for years now, but the 23-year-old has shown that he can become a truly exceptional goalkeeper. When Remiro was the keeper for Bilbao Athletic in the Segunda clubs were already taking notice of his talent. That is why, after Bilbao Athletic were relegated, he joined Levante on loan. However, that move didn’t work out as planned and he was eventually recalled. It is important to get loan moves right and Athletic corrected the mistake.
Over the summer Remiro left once again, but this time for SD Huesca in the Segunda. Not many people expected much from Huesca this season, but the club is now one of the favorites to earn promotion to the Primera and Remiro is a big reason for that. The Lezama product has started all 34 games to this point and has only surrounded 30 goals on the season. He has been an absolute wall in goal and has proven that he is ready for the next step. Ramiro will get the chance to spend the preseason with the first team and will be able to compete with Iago Herrerín for the backup role behind Kepa. If he can’t earn a regular place it wouldn’t be surprising to see him loaned out to a newly promoted club to test his skills in the top flight.
When Athletic Club signed Unai López from Real Sociedad’s youth academy back in 2011 it was a massive deal. Not only did the Lions poach one of the most promising young talents away from their rivals, they also added a midfielder that had the potential to one day star at the San Mamés. López impressed at every level through Lezama and was eventually promoted after the departure of Ander Herrera. Still a teenager, he found it hard to perform in La Liga and many thought that he had been brought up too early.
He spent last year on loan at Leganés in the Primera but wasn’t a regular face in the lineup. In response he was sent on loan to Rayo Vallecano during the summer, a club in the Segunda, where he would have the freedom to continue developing and not have so much pressure on his shoulders. The move couldn’t have worked out any better for López who has been one of Rayo’s most dominant players a big reason why they currently sit in the promotional one of the table. The 22-year-old will get the chance to train with the first team this summer and, due to the poor midfield play this year, he will be competing for a place in the team.
How do you think the five players away on loan have fared this season? Have any of them earned a place in the first team? What do their futures hold? Have your say in the comment section below!