Unai López Showed His Quality In Preseason Win Over Amorebieta
There were plenty of reasons to be excited after Athletic’s 3-0 win over Amorebieta on Thursday. The Lions scored three goals and had chances for others, the midfield looked solid, and the team played with urgency when pressing and in defense. After less than two weeks training under new manager Eduardo Berizzo it appears as though the squad is already adapting well to his system which was the most important takeaway. Throughout the match several players stood out, but none more so than Unai López.
Since coming to Lezama in 2011 López has always shown the potential to become a special player. He has all of the qualities needed to be a great midfielder, but struggled to perform in the first division. It always seemed as though he was thrust into the first team before he was ready and last year he was sent on loan to Rayo Vallecano in hopes of continuing his development and making a strong transition.
While playing with Rayo, López finished the year as one of the best players in the second division. His efforts helped lead them to a first place finish and saw the club earn promotion to the Primera. The 22-year-old returned to Athletic this summer with only one year on his contract and the Basques were sure to secure his future at the San Mamés. With newfound hope and expectations López penned an extension through 2022 and Thursday’s friendly was his first chance to show his quality.
Berizzo started López as the attacking midfielder, or Mediapunta, where he was tasked with creating chances and being the fulcrum of the offense. From the very beginning of the game it was clear that he was playing with confidence and composure. Just two minutes in Athletic had a great opportunity to score and it was all started by López who drew in the defense before finding Markel Susaeta with space on the wing to set up a cross.
After ten minutes López would open up the scoring when he capitalized on a great attack from Iñigo Vicente. The winger beat his defender and played a pass across the face of the goal where López had found space and was ready to slot the ball past the keeper. It was a calm finish and wouldn’t have happened without López perfectly reading the defense and passing lanes.
Throughout the entire first half López was taking on defenders, winning dribbles, and creating danger with his passing. That alone would have been a good showing from the 22-year-old, but there was more. He showed a balance to his game, knowing when to be direct and when to pull the strings and set up attacks. López played with the same maturity that he showed on loan last season and it was a welcome sight.
Playing against Amorebieta definitely isn’t the same as competing in the Primera. That being said, López does look like he has turned the corner and is finally starting to live up to his potential. The confidence and composure he showed on Thursday were not traits he possessed over the past few years and, if he can continue performing at this level, he can become an important player at the San Mamés. There is still a lot left to prove and he’s going to need to do it consistently in La Liga, but Unai López took a major step forward with his big night against Amorebieta.