Iago Herrerín And Sabin Merino Could Leave Athletic Club This Summer
Failing to qualify for European competition this season will impact Athletic Club in more ways than one. Not playing in the Europa League means there will be fewer minutes to go around and that could lead to some players leaving the club in order to find regular playing time. It is already clear that Enric Saborit and Kike Sola will be making their exits this summer, but there are others who could leave as well. The midfield will be overcrowded with Dani Garcia joining the team in a few months and there may even be an overbooking of defenders. That being said, Iago Herrerín and Sabin Merino could be the biggest questions of all.
For Herrerín the situation is simple. He knows that he will act as Kepa Arrizabalaga’s backup next season and, without playing in Europe, he will only see minutes in the Copa del Rey. The 30-year-old has already proven that he is capable of being a starter in La Liga and a recent report from Javier Beltran of AS, claims that he is already considering leaving the club this summer in order to move somewhere that he can be a starter in the league. Herrerín has always been a very ambitious footballer and he has said on more than one occasion that he doesn’t want to sit around as a backup, he wants to play. Being in his prime it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave. At the same time, Herrerín has always been open about his passion for Athletic and desire to succeed at the club, as evidenced by his decision to extend his contract a few months ago, which puts him in a difficult situation.
Herrerín, who is still under contract through 2021, will have suitors this summer. Leganes were interested in signing him permanently after he spent six months on loan there last season, but clubs like Real Sociedad have also shown interest. At the end of the day Athletic need a solid backup behind Kepa, but Herrerín’s future could also be dependent on what the club decides to do with Alex Remiro. The hope is that Huesca will earn promotion to the Primera and Remiro can stay another year on loan, but you also can’t rule out Remiro being given the chance to compete with Herrerín during the preseason. Ultimately, Herrerín wants to play regular minutes and he knows he won’t be able to do that sitting behind Kepa. The club will, of course, make the final decision and won’t offload a player if they believe he has an important role to play.
Sabin Merino’s situation is a bit more fluid. Unless he is able to convince the coach during the preseason that he can play as a striker, his only role will be that of a winger which won’t leave him with many minutes. Iker Muniain, Iñigo Córdoba, Iñaki Williams, Iñigo Lekue, and Markel Susaeta are all in front of him in the pecking order. Add in the possible arrival of Kike Barja and potential promotions from Bilbao Athletic and there just won’t be many opportunities for Merino to see the field next season. The 26-year-old wants to earn a solidified role at the club, but it just won’t be that easy.
Under Ernesto Valverde, Merino was able to play a minor role and looked like he could one day contribute even more. Perhaps the change of manager in the summer could go a long way in revitalizing his career, but for now he appears to be on the outside looking in. A few clubs across Europe have shown interest in Merino and there could be a market for him to leave on loan or to be sold with an option to bring him back. The forward has shown flashes of brilliance so Athletic may not want to let him go without knowing that he could be easily brought back to the San Mamés. If left up to Merino, he’d prefer to fight for his place
Herrerín and Sabin Merino could be two sides of the same coin. Both should be playing regular minutes but will likely not get that chance at Athletic next season. With changes coming over the summer there could a handful of players leaving the San Mamés and it wouldn’t be surprising if both of these footballers are among that group. At the same time both could just as easily stay in the squad which is what makes their situations so much of a question mark. It should be noted that Eduardo Berizzo is expected to be named as the new manager when the current season ends and he will ultimately have the final say on the squad.