Eduardo Berizzo Will Prioritize Depth And Versatility While Trimming The Athletic Squad
The time has come for Eduardo Berizzo to make some difficult decisions about his Athletic Club squad. As things stand there are currently 30 players on the roster and the manager is said to want to narrow that down to 25. However, he also said after the club’s trip to Holland that he doesn’t believe many exits are necessary. There has been a lot of speculation about which players are on the way out, but it isn’t a simple answer.
Two departures look certain right now in Andoni López and Asier Villalibre. López just signed a contract renewal and is close to joining Numancia on loan. Meanwhile, Villalibre has been given every chance to earn a place in the team, but sources say that he is expected to return to Bilbao Athletic where he will have the chance to rebuild his confidence. Neither player was called up for Athletic’s three friendlies this weekend.
There is still uncertainty surrounding Alex Remiro. The club wants to send him on loan to Huesca, but he has yet to sign a renewal which must happen before he can leave. If not he will stay in the first team as the two sides to try continue negotiations. An agreement doesn’t appear to be close right now. Berizzo has long made the decision that Iago Herrerín will continue as the backup to Kepa Arrizabalaga this season.
Figuring out the remaining cuts is difficult at this point. A lot has been said about Iñigo Lekue, Mikel Balenziaga, and Sabin Merino. All three players have received plenty of interest from other clubs in La Liga. However, a report from Mundo Deportivo claims that Berizzo has no plans to offload the two fullbacks because he values the depth and versatility they bring to the team. The manager likes Lekue’s ability to play on both sides and as a winger which may be enough for the 25-year-old to stay. At the same time, sources say that Berizzo is not convinced by Christian Ganea at left-back, viewing him more as a winger, and would like for Balenziaga to act as the backup to Yuri Berchiche.
Sabin Merino’s future is still very much up in the air. Berizzo has put a focus on depth and the 26-year-old would technically be the only other striker in the team behind Aduriz. There is always a chance that Iñaki Williams or Gorka Guruzeta could feature in that role, but the manager has been giving Merino the chance to earn a place in the team. He was called up for the Opel Cup on Sunday and his performances will likely decide his fate.
Looking at other potential casualties, it is likely that Oihan Sancet will join Bilbao Athletic in order to player regular minutes, but he may not be the only one. Although the manager wants Nolaskoain to be the fourth center-back in the squad, several sources have said that he could split time with the reserve team when he isn’t needed. Berizzo likes the idea of keeping talented young players close at hand in case he needs them at some point during the season. Sancet and Nolaskoain could fall into this category, as do Iñigo Vicente and Iñigo Muñoz who returned to Bilbao Athletic when the team left for Holland.
Other players such as Mikel San José, Mikel Rico, Beñat, and Ander Iturraspe have all been named as possible casualties this summer but there is no plan for any one of them to leave. Berizzo likes what they all bring to the team and wants to have options for the midfield. Coming into the summer it looked as Rico would certainly leave, but his performances in friendlies seem to have convinced the manager. At the same time, Gorka Guruzeta has played very well and all signs point to him being officially promoted.
Berizzo has remained very clear about the fact that he isn’t going to rush into any decisions and that he doesn’t believe many cuts are necessary. His ultimate goal is to challenge for a place in Europe and he wants a deep and versatile squad to fight for that hope. As things stand right now it looks certain that Villalibre and Andoni López are on on the way out, but no other decisions have been made. Players like Sabin Merino, Lekue, and Sancet are still fighting for their place in the team and that makes every single day vitally important for the manager to choose his squad.